September 21, 2022


GISD families run up $10,000 meal tab

District says it depend on parents to pay for their children’s meals

GISD meal prices 

Georgetown ISD’s meal prices for the current school year are:

 

Breakfast

Lunch

Elementary 

$1.75

$3.00

Secondary 

$2.00

$3.25

Adult 

$3.25

$4.15


By KATHERINE ANTHONY

With the new school year just a month old, Georgetown ISD families have run up a tab of about $10,000 in unpaid meals eaten by their children, Kirby Campbell, GISD executive director of Support Services, said Thursday.

The current $10,000 debt exceeds the debt accumulated through the entirety of recent school years, he said. Debts in past years have been between $5,000 to $7,000 for the year and were wiped clean through a gift from an anonymous donor, Mr. Campbell said.

“It’s unusual to have this debt be so much so early,” Mr. Campbell said about the ongoing school year.

He theorizes the reason for this year’s debt is that many parents became accustomed to the free meals available during the past two school years — meals paid for by the federal government as part of Covid-relief aid. 

That aid ended this school year and parents are now expected to pay for the meals — breakfast and/or lunch — their children eat.

“We wish the free meals could have been continued,” Mr. Campbell said. “But since they weren’t, we depend on parents to pay for their children’s meals.”

GISD offers a payment system in which parents open a meal account for their children and deposit money in it as needed. As students go through the cafeteria line for breakfast or lunch, money is deducted from their account balance. 

The account site can be accessed online on the district’s Skyward parent portal.

The district does not deny food to students with a zero balance in their accounts. 

“We’re always going to feed a child, but by the seventh or eighth meal with no payment, we’ll offer a sandwich because we don’t want to see that debt get even bigger for parents,” he said. 

The debt, he said, will follow the child from year to year and “will never go away unless paid.”

To drive the current $10,000 debt down, GISD has been reaching out to individual parents to either set up a meal account or update an existing account that needs replenishing. 

Emails have been sent to remind parents that meals are no longer free and to alert them that they owe money. Campus principals will follow up with personal outreach, if necessary, Mr. Campbell said.

Parents are also being encouraged to apply for free/reduced meals if they qualify.


Free, reduced-price school meals benefit qualifying families


Not all students must pay full price for school prepared meals. 

Georgetown ISD is urging eligible families to sign up for free and/or reduced-price meals. Under this plan, reduced school breakfasts are available for 30 cents and lunches for 40 cents.

Qualifying students can receive reduced or free meals based on eligibility, and GISD is making a push to encourage all eligible families to complete the application form. Only one form per family is required.

Children may be eligible for free or reduced-price meals if a family:
• Receives government food stamps.
• Receives Aid for Needy Families with Children.
• Income is at, or less than, a specified level.

Once a household is approved for free and reduced-price benefits, it will remain eligible for the remainder of the school year, plus a maximum of 30 operating days after the first operating day in the following school year. This means the household is no longer required to report changes in circumstances, such as an increase in income, a decrease in household size or when the household is no longer certified as eligible for food stamps or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

GISD free and reduced-price benefits are about more than lunch. Qualified families may be eligible for the following benefits: 
• Free SAT & ACT testing
• College application fees waived at selected colleges and universities
• Scholarship opportunities for students
• Athletics — Students receive discounts to purchase gear for workouts and for camps
• Fine Arts students on free/reduced lunch are often given special consideration when it comes to school instrument rental and are also eligible for Georgetown Performing Arts Alliance scholarships
• Support from local GISD Partners such as Backpack Buddies and Blue Santa

The number of free/reduced meal applications also impacts the amount of federal money provided to the school district.

More information about free/reduced meals — including the application form — is available at www.georgetownisd.org/Page/460.