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Ashley County Ledger — Hamburg School District students who have not paid their school lunch bills will have a four day grace period to make arrangements for payment or they will be served cheese sandwiches again beginning Monday. The Hamburg School Board in effect held the existing policy in abeyance for the remainder of the week during the regular meeting on Monday night.

According to the Ashley County Ledger, Lu Davis, the food services manager, said students owe approximately $12,000 in lunch charges. Most of the unpaid balance, $7,958, is from students at Noble/Allbritton Elementary. Charges at the high school are $1,274 with $1,178 at the middle school, $1,974 at Portland and $120 at Wilmot Elementary.

The district policy provides that when a child has charges of $10, then he or she will be given a cheese sandwich and milk rather than a hot meal.

Board member Jim Wells asked questions about the policy, which the board approved last April. Superintendent of Schools Max Dyson said that the district provided an opportunity for parents to fill out free and reduced price lunch forms, and the forms are then reviewed and approved or denied based on income and the number of people in the household. Dyson also noted that for those who are approved for reduced price lunches, the district pays the remaining amount due.

The superintendent recalled that the board approved the policy of providing cheese sandwiches and milk, “which meets minimum standards” for nutrition. He noted also that, “By law, we don’t have to do anything… we do not have to offer a meal.”

Dyson said in the majority of the cases of past due bills, the parents did not return the free and reduced lunch form. He added that the district has to realize that, “We are going in the hole as far as food service goes. We are trying to stop the bleeding.” He added that lots of other schools have a similar policy where they offer cheese or peanut butter sandwiches to those who have not paid their bills.

The superintendent said that the U. S. Department of Agriculture wants lunch programs “to break even, but right now, we will be $100,000 to $200,000 in the hole by the time that the year is over.” He said he realized that the parents were presented with the issue right before Christmas, “but the fact of the matter is we are not trying to make any more off these meals other than what the parents owe.”

Read the Ashley County Ledger for the rest of this story.