Bismarck Public Schools is indebted 22,000 dollars from un-paid lunch bills. It’s a problem that has been rolled over year after year.
The schools aren’t actually able to prevent this debt from adding up each year. Under the school district’s lunch charge policy, they’ll never deny a child a meal, regardless of how much they owe. Of that 22,000 that’s sitting in the red, about half is from the year ending with unpaid negative balance, the other half from free and reduced lunch expenses.
Phillip Schultz; Bismarck Resident: “It breaks your heart.”
Phillip Schultz said he watched his friend lose his job, and had to pick which bills to pay.
Phillip Schultz; Bismarck Resident: “It became such a stressful thing that their kids were even scared to eat at school.”
To help his friend, and the community, he set up a fundraiser and began planning a benefit concert.
Phillip Schultz; Bismarck Resident: “I’d say we’ve raised about 3,500 dollars so far, roughly.”
Michelle Wagner is the Child Nutrition Program Director for Bismarck Public Schools. She says the schools have taken steps to get ahead of the problem.
Michelle Wagner; Child Nutrition Program Director: “There’s steps that we’ve taken now where we do a notification when they’re $10 to the good, so we’re trying to be a little more proactive saying, ‘hey, your balance is getting low.'”
Having this debt is nothing new for Bismarck.
I asked Wagner when the last time the district wasn’t in the red for lunch money.
Michelle Wagner; Child Nutrition Program Director: “I don’t know. I’m starting my 4th school year, we’ve had debt since I started.”
Next Saturday, a benefit concert will be held at Custer park. Donations will gladly be accepted.
The debt falls under the Child Nutrition Program, and there is no budget made to prepare for these costs. The debt can fall on the school district.
To donate to Feed the Youth Bismarck, click here.
To donate to Bismarck Publics Schools, click here.
For information on the benefit concert, click here.