RENO, NV (KOLO) The Washoe County School District serves approximately 47,000 meals a day. That is 8.4 million a year.
Some of those meals are covered by a federal assistance program. The rest are charged to each student's account. At any given time most of those accounts are up to date, but some inevitably are not.
"So, we charge the meal," says the district's Nutritiion Services Director Livanka Soliz. "And the account will go into arrears and it will be a negative balance on the account."
In most cases, the amount is small, but the total adds up quickly and has risen to about $100-thousand dollars.
Soliz says the district tries to work with those in arrears. A first step is to help them find out if they qualify for assistance. Many do, which solves the problem. For the rest, it is a matter of working with the families.
"We'll work with them to see if we can set up a payment plan and as an ultimate last resort there is the potential the account will sent into collections."
24 Washoe County schools have not been part of this problem. They have enough students who qualify for federal assistance that the entire school is then covered by the federal program. In those schools, everyone eats for free.
Changing demographics and guidelines are about to add 16 more. More students eating for free, means less red ink in the district's books.
"This is going to impact about 20,000 students in our district. So when you have more students having access to free meals then that's going to offset the opportunities out there to incur debt."
Soliz says sales of other items like potato chips and bottled water helps cover the shortfall.
No matter what, one thing the district won't do is deny a student a meal.
"We want our students fed and ready to learn in the classroom so we would never lunch shame or pull a tray from a student."
The Washoe County Schools that now qualify for free lunches are:
Lemmon Valley, Drake, Alice Smith, Stead, Dodson, Veterans Memorial, Palmer, Desert Heights, Greenbrae, Lincoln Park, Picollo, Bennett, Elmcrest, Maxwell, Sun Valley, Kate Smith, Corbett, Cannan, Loder, Anderson, Smithridge, Mathews, Allen, Duncan, Booth, Lemelson, Mitchell, Warner, Natchez & Risley
Sparks, Vaughn, Dilworth & Traner
Hug, Inspire & Tourning Point
Mariposa & Bailey
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