KALAMAZOO Mich. (WOOD) — As students head back to the classroom across West Michigan, many in one local district will not have to worry about paying for lunch.
This year, for the first time, most buildings in the Parchment School District qualified for federal and state funding that will cover the cost of lunch and breakfast for every single student. The program includes all the elementary schools, along with the early learning center and alternative high school.
Buildings qualify based on a formula using data from the state, which includes factors like the number of students on Medicaid or receiving food assistance. Under that formula, the Parchment high and middle schools did not qualify.
Superintendent Jason Misner hopes the meal service will strengthen academic achievement.
“The more barriers to success that we can remove in a school district, the more successful our students all can be,” Misner said.
The last three Decembers in Parchment, a “secret Santa” has paid off thousands of dollars in lunch debt to help families in need. In 2017 and 2018, a grandparent of children in the district donated a total of $13,200.
“For those of us that care about children and care about families, that debt really, completely, never can be repaid to that secret Santa,” Misner said.
Students in the participating buildings will no longer have to worry about the potentially embarrassing situation of not being able to pay for lunch or eat the same food as their classmates. If accounts have longstanding debts, students may be given different meals that are less expensive.
“There’s alternative meals that are placed after a debt has not been paid off for so many days, weeks, and we do try to make sure that we have a plan in place for that student so that we don’t have that,” Misner said.
The free lunch program begins on the first day of school Sept. 3.