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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Unpaid school lunch charges have been on rise for years in New Hanover County, but now schools can no longer use federal funds to pay off those meals.

Last year alone unpaid lunches cost the district about $122,000.

New Hanover County schools now have to cover the cost of unpaid student lunches out of their own budgets. The school board recently made the move based on a change in federal requirements.

Schools must provide meals even if a child cannot pay. If it is not paid back, the money will now come from a school’s local supply allocations or general fund.

Sunset Park Elementary School principal Jakki Jethro says this is concerning, because that money would otherwise go toward instructional materials and emergencies.

“We’re all very concerned about this,” she said. “We’re very protective over our school budgets. We take being the financial leaders of the school very seriously, and the challenge is going to be finding the money to cover these costs.”

Jethro says her school could easily rack up $2-3,000 worth of unpaid lunches by the end of the school year. She hopes school leaders can come together to reexamine this policy, and find a solution.

The district says parents can help, simply by filling out the free and reduced lunch form online if they qualify.

Comment on this Story

  • Ugh

    Seriously, either fill out the form or send some cash… It’s not brain surgery. Anyway to leech off the system seems to be the order of the day lately. Sad.

  • Guest2020

    Some people have to use the system to survive. I am not for a widespread welfare system where able bodied people live off of the state for all of their lives, but there are hard-working people who have been employed since they were old enough to work who fall on hard times and need a little help. And I have known kids whose only meal was the free lunch they got at school. There is this one kid whose father made too much for even a reduced lunch. But, the medical bills from his mother having cancer made the funds scarce and he couldn’t afford to eat. I wish my daughter would have told me at the time instead of after the fact, because I would have gladly paid for him to have his lunch.

  • Vog46

    Pay attention now…….

    Vog likes the school lunch program – I’m willing to pay taxes to make sure a kid who is poor gets a free lunch. I have NO PROBLEM with that.
    But if you don’t qualify don’t purchase a lunch “using credit” then walk away from the bill.
    Kids – life doesn’t work this way and your parents should know better. Getting into this habit early on is the WORST life lesson you can learn. After awhile you will begin to assume that all purchases can be made this way and unfortunately you will learn that this is not true. By the time you learn THAT lesson it will be too late.

    Parents? Pay your kids lunch bills. Talk wit them early on. Yeah there are some lunches kids actually want to buy. ON other days they may prefer to bring their own. talk about it, plan for it but for God’s sake PAY FOR IT !!!!
    It’s not hard.

    Schools? How about limiting credit to one weeks worth of lunches? Make it one week. Send a note home – no more lunches unless the bill is paid. If a kid goes hungry once you can bet they’ll be talking to Mom & Dad.

    Is this too much to ask?


  • beach guy

    I am with you on this one Vog, be responsible!
    even if the parents are not on welfare If the parents truly do not have the money send them to Social services with proof of income and the total household expenditures that should be the same amount as the money coming as in you get receipts for every LEGAL purchase, and if they qualify give them a “school ebt” card that way the state would have to fund it. Hell maybe the state could withhold it from the state income tax return of the parents. they garnishee taxes for everything else.
    And when I talk about expenditures I mean things like the cable bill you don’t need cable.. but your kids need lunch also bring in your grocery receipts.
    That twelve pack or bottle of vino or the fifth of jack black and carton of lucky strikes would buy a few lunches I am sure of it.
    Again it is about being responsible, I feel sorry for the kids in these household they do not have a chance of realizing what every parents dream should be.

  • kzpony

    Now THAT was a great comment and great suggestion!!!!

  • Guest2020

    In Brusnwick County, the schools only let the bills go for a certain time, then the kids start getting PB&J. It really isn’t that hard to enforce limits for the kids whose parents can afford to pay.

  • Not Politically Correct

    Then after the welfare trash kid goes without food for a day a corrupt lawyer will represent them and sue the school for something or another.

  • dean bailey

    My name is Dean Bailey . I’m a 60 year old man. I grew up in Greenville S.C. in the 60’s.I have two brothers and two sisters. We were so poor that we didn’t eat for days and they didn’t have free meals at school. When I hear people complaining about the cost of free meals for school children who cannot afford them it makes me very angry. That meal might be the only food that child will have for the entire day. The schools complain that it will take money from other educational necessities.If this is the case then where is all the money from the N.C. Educational lottery going? If all of this money they claim the lottery is providing for our schools isn’t covering those costs then someone(s) must have their finger in the till. Since the lottery has been in N.C. I have not heard anything but complaints about the schools not having funds for almost everything. There should be an abundance of funds and plenty left over to feed the children who cannot afford to pay for meals themselves. It’s hard to learn if you’re hungry.

  • Guest2020

    They send forms home every year with every student for the parents to fill out to see if they qualify for reduced or free lunch. The computer system keeps track of what program the student is on and charge them or not charge them accordingly.

  • pook29

    I cannot believe someone would call a kid “welfare trash” that is truly disgusting! Some parents can’t afford for their kids to eat lunch at school if you haven’t noticed the prices are rising for that little bit of lunch anyway. And yes if they can’t afford it then they should fill out the form to see if they qualify for free lunch but it is 100% not the child’s fault and like one commenter said where is all the “education” lottery money going that’s supposed to be helping out the schools? Kids need to eat and I sure don’t mind my tax dollars helping put food in a hungry childs mouth I do however have a problem with the way it is being spent instead…..


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