STEWARTVILLE, Minn. – After reports of “lunch shaming” coming under scrutiny, the Stewartville school board has made amendments to the district’s school lunch policy.
The Stewartville School District has been hearing many concerns from parents and lawmakers. That’s because students’ lunches were reportedly being thrown out and instead, students were given a cheaper, substitute meal.
Jena Giest tells just one of those stories.
"When my daughter was in fourth grade, she actually had her lunch dumped and was incredibly embarrassed,” Giest said. “[She] didn't want to go to school and actually tried to play sick and hooky and was incredibly embarrassed, and it was the first time we'd ever gone, you know, to where our balance was negative and it mortified her."
Her daughter is now a junior at Stewartville High School. Giest said this has been a huge, ongoing problem.
"I'm not sure why all of a sudden it just became this huge, hot topic because it's been the same policy for years,” Giest said.
The school board made numerous changes to their policy. Cashiers at the schools will no longer verbally remind students to bring money if their account is low. Like before, weekly notifications including emails, text, and phone calls will be made directly to the parents of students.
After coming under scrutiny, the district sent out a survey to come up with a long-term solution. A Stewartville parent even made a GoFundMe page to raise money for families not able to afford school lunch.
"The district is kind of at a catch-22 because they can't keep having a negative lunch balance and they do have quite a few on free and reduced lunches,” Giest said, “but it's one of those things where they need to keep positive balances but they still do need to keep kids having lunches also."
In the meantime, Giest said parents need to stay on top of lunch balance accounts while the district works to come up with a long-term solution.
"It's just one of those things, the parents just need to step up and make sure they keep their balance up to date cause we do get the weekly reminders,” Giest said. “It's just we need to make sure we pay attention to that."
Superintendent Belinda Selfors said in a statement: “The proposed changes to the policy reflect the district’s intent to ensure that all students who choose to participate in the lunch program are provided with a school lunch. In addition, the policy revisions also address the procedures for informing parents and guardians of lunch account balances. We are looking forward to continuing the conversation with our communities about the issue of childhood hunger and working together in finding solutions for how we can provide on-going and sustainable support for our children and our families in need.”