Scottsdale district ends unlimited lunch credit program - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

Scottsdale district ends unlimited lunch credit program

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Posted: Saturday, November 3, 2007 7:42 am | Updated: 8:07 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

If your child comes home from school complaining his peanut butter sandwich was missing jelly, it’s time to put more money in his lunch account.

Starting Thursday, the Scottsdale Unified School District stopped giving students unlimited hot lunches on credit because parents haven’t been paying up, resulting in outstanding balances of $20,000 to $30,000 districtwide, said nutrition services director Sue Bettenhausen.

“We’re very sorry we have to do this, but we have to manage our funds because we are a self-funded department,” Bettenhausen said. “For us to lose $20,000, that is a huge chunk.”

Elementary school students will be able to get three hot lunches on credit before they get sack lunches of juice, bread and peanut butter without jelly, Bettenhausen said. Cheese sandwiches will be provided to students with peanut allergies.

Parents will still get phone reminders when account balances get low, Bettenhausen said. Schools will also stamp students’ hands three or four days before accounts run into negative numbers.

Parents can add cash to accounts by visiting, sending money with students or contacting cafeteria managers.

This peanut butter practice is similar to what a lot of school districts do and is similar to a policy Scottsdale had until about two years ago.

But Bettenhausen had two problems with the old policy.

First of all, the peanut butter and jelly combination was so popular that kids wouldn’t tell parents they needed money.

But the bigger issue was the execution. Children would go through the lunch line, pick up a normal lunch and then have a cashier tell them they couldn’t have the food, she said.

Under the new policy, students get their peanut butter before filing into the lunch line.

“He won’t be embarrassed,” Bettenhausen said. “No one will ever take a tray out of a child’s hand again.”

Middle school students will get two meals on credit before switching to sandwiches. But high school students won’t be able to dip into the peanut butter jar.

“High school students are very bright young adults. They recognize the benefits to an unlimited free lunch,” she said. “We had to stop it at the high school because they can communicate their needs or they earn money through jobs.”

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