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Fund account to cover lunch costs for Eau Claire school district students in arrears

Money offers from community follow nearly $800 donation

posted Feb. 16, 2017 12:00 a.m. | updated Feb. 16, 2017 2:13 p.m. (CDT)
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by / Lauren French

The Eau Claire school district is setting up a Good Neighbor fund designed to cover lunch costs for students with delinquent accounts after it received a string of donation offers this week. 

“We certainly greatly appreciate the formation of a Good Neighbor account from our generous community members,” said director of food and nutrition Sue Brown, noting the district has received about a half-dozen calls.

The offers come after Laci Eberle of Eau Claire paid the district $786.90 on Monday to cover the full lunch account debt in elementary schools accrued so far this year. In Eau Claire elementary schools, students are allowed five hot meals in the red before receiving a substitute lunch. Schools can now draw from the Good Neighbor account to provide students who have exceeded their five meals with a hot lunch.

Brown said she’s not yet sure how much starting money will be in the Good Neighbor account because donors are currently in the process of sending their payments. Brown said money in the account will be used only for families who really need it.

“We really encourage families to apply for free and reduced lunch benefits,” Brown said, noting that schools will be in contact with families whose children receive meals paid via the new fund. “They can do that anytime during the school year because we understand that circumstances change. The Good Neighbor account is really going to be used for families in transition, not for those who are choosing not to pay.”

Altoona, Menomonie

Eberle’s donation prompted at least one other community member to offer debt coverage for the Altoona school district, although officials there did not have specific information on Wednesday about how much lunch debt is owed or whether the offer to cover it is final.

The Menomonie school district is currently about $5,000 in the hole for the year from delinquent lunch payments, school nutrition director Michelle Kloser said.

“Oh, my gosh, no,” Kloser said when asked whether the district has received any offers to cover its students’ meal debt. “We have not.”

Kloser said the Menomonie district doesn’t use alternative meals for kids whose family owes money for lunch — all elementary and middle school students receive meals regardless of their lunch account status. She said the school sends consistent messages home and also makes personal phone calls to families who owe money.

The Menomonie district has an account set up similar to Eau Claire’s Good Neighbor fund. The Menomonie account currently has about $300 in it. Kloser said the district is in the process of developing a policy that would ensure the money goes toward students whose families are truly struggling financially.

To donate money to the Menomonie district’s Angel Fund, contact Kloser at 715-232-1642, ext. 11064, or stop by the district office’s front desk at 215 Pine Ave. N.E., Menomonie.

To donate money to the Eau Claire district’s Good Neighbor fund, contact Brown at 715-852-3021 or sbrown@ecasd.us.

Contact: 715-830-5828, lauren.french@ecpc.com, @LaurenKFrench on Twitter