Rapid City Area Schools turn to the community for help paying of lunch balances

Without the waivers students have gone back to the free, paid, and reduced lunch rates which are based on various socioeconomic factors.
Published: Nov. 24, 2022 at 4:42 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - In June, Congress announced the end of the free school lunch waivers for all students, leaving some parents scrambling to cover the cost.

For some students, the food they receive at school is the only meal they eat for the day.

Since free school lunches for all students are no longer being covered by federal COVID money, some families cannot pay for lunch fees, leaving students with negative balances.

“So, we have definitely seen a decrease in participation since the last two years we were able to feed all students at no charge, and now were feeding students at the paid, free, and reduced rate based on student eligibility. So, we may have a lot of students that were eating lunch with us in the last couple of years that are no longer eating with us,” said Krista Leischner, the nutrition manager for Rapid City Area Schools.

Rapid City schools are not turning children away, providing meals for any students who want one and, as a result, the district has lost $72,000 in lunch debt this year.

But members of the community are stepping up and opening their hearts and wallets to help cover the balances.

Two significant donations came from Nerdy Nuts and Independent Agents Association. Both businesses donated $25,000.

“These are our kids; these are our schools. Nobody really learns well if they’re hungry, if you’re thinking about food, I can’t imagine you’re thinking about anything else really. So, I think it’s important that the community stands up and we can have their backs on this thing I think,” said Mike Gould with Independent Agents Association.

For more information on how to donate to help pay off negative balances, click here.