Is it possible to pay off Student’s School Lunch Balances in DC?

school lunch
Photo by PoPville flickr user Nikoo’s Photos

“Dear PoPville,

Last week, someone commented that they called a school to pay off some kids outstanding school lunch balances–any idea how to do that? I’ve googled and nothing came up.”

18 Comment

  • I mean, aren’t the steps right there in your description?:

    1) “called a school”
    2) “pay off some kids outstanding school lunch balances”

    I would guess that each school is different, and the admin team would respond differently. There is a centralized lunch contract for DCPS, but again, each school probably administers the day-to-day differently. Charters are a different beast, they contract meals separately. So, yeah, call the school you are interested in and ask if it’s possible to zero out some delinquent accounts.

  • Nice picture! Ohhh nelly, is that place good for lunch…and inducing post-lunch naps.

  • I reached out to DCPS in December and this is what they said:

    “The best way to donate is to send a check or money order made payable to the DC Treasurer to the following address:

    DCPS Food and Nutrition Services
    1200 First Street, NE, 9th Floor
    Washington, DC 20002

    Kindly add a note in the memo section stating “Negative Meal Balance Donation”.

  • Many schools in DC participate in FARM at such a high rate that every child receives free breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Certainly children in the most vulnerable of schools do, and even at less vulnerable schools. I’m not even sure what schools do actually make children pay… perhaps those WOTP?

    • Yup–I was going to make this same point. However, a lot of schools run food drives before vacations to help feed children/families when school-sponsored meals are not available. That might be another way to help.

    • You’re partially correct. Breakfast and after-care snacks are free but lunch is not. However, parents must opt out of it or they have to pay. (The default is to include everyone simply because it’s more efficient to assume they all need it, since most do, and then let the parents opt out.) This policy is city-wide.
      .
      That said, there are still families who don’t meet the FARM requirement but the lunch cost is a financial burden.

      • I’m not sure that’s the case. Lunch is free at our school, unless it’s somehow different for PK compared to the rest of the elementary school. But I’m pretty sure that free lunch is provided to all under the community eligibility provision: https: //www. fns.usda.gov/school-meals/community-eligibility-provision

        • Here’s a better source of info: https: // dcps.dc.gov/page/community-eligibility-provision-cep-schools

          • That’s interesting. At my kid’s school (Bancroft), we do not meet eligibility so we had to opt out of lunch or get billed for it. The documents were very clear about that.

          • Really? We’re also at Bancroft, and have never opted out, nor have we been billed. Unless there’s something different about PK (which is possible given its initial foundation out of head start). We looked into this at the beginning of the school year because we were trying to figure out how to pay for school lunches, but when I found the above link, I stopped worrying about it.

        • PK is different and their lunch is free (if they’re a headstart program).
          .
          There’s also Free Summer Meals Program – free breakfast and lunch at different locations (schools, rec centers, etc.) across the city for anyone under 18 during the summer, you don’t have to be a registered student to participate. Information usually comes out before school lets out so students with food insecurity know where they can get some meals.

    • This is called the Community Eligibility Provision. Here’s the list of DC schools that participate: https://dcps.dc.gov/page/community-eligibility-provision-cep-schools

    • I can only speak for DCPS since that’s what I’m familiar with, but yes- about 80% of DCPS qualifies for CEP meaning it is 100% free for breakfast, lunch, and after school programs. You can see a list of what schools are CEP qualified here: https://dcps.dc.gov/node/1037772
      .
      If a student goes to a non-CEP school (27 of them, if I recall correctly) they still receive free breakfast and after school programs (if their school participates), but lunch negative balances can accrue. No student is given a different meal or denied food when they have a negative balance/no money to pay for their lunch, so those balances build until someone pays for them (letters and calls are sent to parents/guardians), but many carry over each year.

  • The Blue and White in Old Town!

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