SCOTT CO., Ind. (WHAS11) – "This is the next generation of our country, and we're feeding them cheese sandwiches when prisoners are getting fed hot meals,” Dawn Spencer, a mother of two kids who attend Scott County School District 2, said.
A new “Alternative Lunch Program” at the district started Monday.
"If a child sees another child get singled out over a lunch tray,” she said. “That immediately puts a target on that child's back."
The new program only allows kids whose lunch balance goes negative to get a cheese sandwich and a carton of milk for lunch.
In the past, the district would regularly pay about $80,000 a year to cover kids whose parents did not pay. The school maintains a large food budget, but the Indiana State Board of Accounts told the school they cannot use federal money to help someone pay off personal debt.
“The debt is not the food services problem,” Marc Slaton, Scott County District 2’s superintendent, said. “It’s a local problem because it is created by the parents.”
Without federal money, the school needs to draw from their own funds. And $80,000 means they might have to cut two or three teachers.
Kids get a 21 day grace period after they go negative before they actually get an alternative meal.
Over half the kids in District 2 qualify for free and approved lunches, which are regular hot meals paid for with federal money. Another segment of the students’ parents pay for their meals, and then a small group of students fall into the middle. Those in the middle have to get the alternative meal.
“They’re telling it’s out of their hands,” Spencer said. “But it doesn’t make it right.”
Slaton said they could cover all the kids if the federal law changed. He plans to call the Board of Accounts to see who he needs to approach to start that change.
Until they can speak to lawmakers, the school will work with parents to create a scholarship program for those kids forced into the alternative meals.
Parents like Dawn, whose balances are not in the negative, believe lawmakers need to rethink how school lunch gets funded.
"This is not what our country was founded on,” she said. “Our country was not founded on feed the prisoners and starve the children."