Local business pays off some school lunch debt
Alfonso Medina, owner of La Carreta Mexican Grill, had an idea almost one month ago about a new way to give back to the community of Marshalltown.
He donated $1,167.85 to the Marshalltown School District for negative student lunch accounts at Miller Middle School and the high school.
“I wanted to pay off half of the outstanding balance for students who have reduced lunch fees,” Medina said.
Lynn Large, the director of food service for the school district, said Medina’s donation paid off half of the debt of meals and impacted the accounts of 25 middle school students and 55 high school students. Children in preschool through sixth grade are all eligible for free breakfast and lunch.
Large said qualifying middle and high school students can received meals at reduced prices or free of charge.
Donations for student meal debt is not unheard of but also is not incredibly common.
“Occasionally around the holidays people like to give,” Large said. “Also at the end of the school year when students are graduating and they have money left in their accounts, we ask the parents if they would like to donate that money to children in the district. Some parents choose to have that money transferred to other accounts.”
School lunches and the reaction of school districts to unpaid accounts have taken a more prominent role in headlines across the country. Some districts have chosen to impose penalties on students with negative account balances. The penalties could be a simple sandwich at school rather than a hot lunch, throwing the food away or not allowing students to go on field trips or to the prom.
The Marshalltown School District does not engage in such activities.
“We generally feed all of the kids if they have no money or do have money,” Large said. “Every day we offer a turkey sandwich meal with milk and a selection of fruit. Any student can choose that whether they have money or not. Or they can eat the regular meal but they will be charged for it. We work with the parents to try to settle negative account balances. We understand the demographic we serve and always feed the kids regardless if they can pay or not.”
Medina said he had not heard of the school district penalizing children for negative account balances but did not want any debt to weigh on the minds of students.
“I believe no child should stay out of the opportunity of an education because they have an outstanding school debt,” he said. “I don’t want children to be a situation where they are afraid to go to school because they can’t afford lunch. That effects their progress and development.”
Paying off some of the debt also fits in to La Carreta’s new motto of not just thanking customers but investing in the community of Marshalltown. Medina also offers scholarships to students at Iowa Valley Community College District.
Contact Lana Bradstream
at 641-753-6611 or