Harrison County BOE battles thousands in school lunch debt

Published: Aug. 6, 2019 at 5:14 PM EDT
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While the Harrison County school district prepares for a new year their is one problem they're still trying to address.

School lunch debt.

And while a few unpaid lunches doesn't seem like a huge expense, the numbers can add up quickly, says David Seay, the nutrition director for Harrison County schools.

"For the whole school year the debt would be, for high school kids, about $400," Saey said "For elementary school, a bit less than that about $325,"

Currently, Harrison county is facing $125,000 in school lunch debt.

And while some of the debt comes from graduated students, the focus is on those still enrolled and preventing them from racking up any more debt.

Families are notified once they exceed $200 in debt per student.

"Once it's $200 per child then we make more of an effort, we use the magistrate court, we use a collection agency, we prompt them with letters,"

Now that a majority of Harrison County's schools qualify for free meals through the CEP or "Community eligibility provision", Seay encourages families to address their debt in increments.

"17 of our schools are CEP schools, their meals are free," Seay said "We encourage them to pay just a little bit every month, that way by the time they're ready to graduate their bills are paid for,"

Overall, the county spends several million dollars feeding students every year.

"We spend about 8 million dollars a year feeding the kids of Harrison county," Seay said "A lot of that comes from the federal government, some of that comes from the state government, and some of that is from the county,"

With that funding comes the county's wide variety of nutritional program, which Seay encourages families to use.

"We have a school breakfast program, a school lunch program, a fruit and vegetable program, after-school snacks, after school meals,"

While tackling this debt is an ongoing issue, Seay stresses that a students financial situation will never effect how they're treated.

"The child should never know that there's an issues," said Seay "When they show up in our lunch line, we don't care how big their bill is, if they're on free meals, if they pay faithfully- we treat every child the same,"

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