Lunch loans are optional at middle and high schools


POSTED: Tuesday, September 22, 2009

QUESTION: I am trying to research information about the Department of Education's lunch policy. Would you be able to help me? My son's school has a “;no lunch loan policy,”; but I am not getting any information from the school. I am concerned because in a recent incident, my son had his lunch tray taken from his hands because he did not have any funds in his lunch account. It was an oversight on my part because I was waiting for a notice from the school telling me his balance was low. I found out later that it is the parent's responsibility to check on the account balance. I am shocked that the school/cafeteria can be so negligent in this area. Our children are placed in their care while they are at school and, my son and, I'm assuming, other children are being dismissed from the lunch line so nonchalantly.

ANSWER: The extent of the Department of Education's lunch loan policy depends on what level of school is involved.

Lunch loans are optional at middle and high schools, said Randolph Moore, assistant superintendent, Office of School Facilities and Support Services.

We are assuming your son is not in elementary school because of his school's “;no lunch loan policy,”; in which case the school would have the right to deny him lunch for not having money in his account—with or without parental notification.

If that's not the case, you can contact Moore's office to make a complaint.

“;We really cannot track down a problem unless we know the school and, ideally, the date the incident occurred,”; he said.

Elementary school students are given leeway—up to five unpaid lunches—for empty accounts. Elementary schools will provide a regular breakfast and regular lunch to a student wanting a meal, who is not eligible for a free lunch but does not have meal money, UNLESS the amount the school has advanced exceeds a certain level.

No meals will be provided if the balance of advances exceeds the total of five student lunch prices—$6.25 for students who pay $1.25 for lunch and $1 for students who pay 20 cents for lunch, Moore said.

The school will advance the cost of the meal from the school food services account, then telephone the parent and/or send a note home with the student advising the parent of the loan, the amount and the fact that the loan should be repaid the following school day, Moore said.

Parents would have been notified before the day the negative balance exceeds the “;five lunches”; limit.

“;The student knows when the meal account is overdrawn, and the student should tell the parent, even if the school is not able to reach the parent,”; Moore said.

He said schools are encouraged to direct students to use a school telephone to call their parents to tell them to deposit funds to their meal accounts.

Loans are not available to students to purchase second breakfasts, second lunches, second lunch entrees or a la carte items.

Question: What are the dates for the Hawaii International Film Festival at the Regal Theaters at Dole Cannery? Will there be a booklet published to show the different films being shown?

Answer: The film festival will be held Oct. 15-25.

Information on the films is expected to be available at the end of the month at select Starbucks locations, libraries and theaters around Oahu, as well as on the festival's Web site, hiff.org.