School Meals Fuel Student Minds and Bodies
Posted by Saint Paul Public Schools on Nov. 30, 2017
All Students Receive Lunch in SPPS
Chili, cheese pizza and chicken fried rice are some of the tasty, hearty options that make up the lunchtime menu for more than 28,000 students in Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS).
The SPPS Child Nutrition Program is an important partner in the fight against hunger by providing breakfast, lunch and dinner. Free breakfast is offered daily to more than 38,000 students, and the no-cost supper program feeds about 2,000 students after school each day.
No matter what a student’s meal account balance may be, they are always served lunch to fuel their young minds and bodies.
“Research links student health to attendance, grades and performance,” said Stacy Koppen, Director of Nutrition Services for Saint Paul Public Schools. “Students who are well nourished are able to focus on their academics and have the fuel they need to learn.”
Recently, some Minnesota school districts were criticized for throwing students’ lunches away if they had negative balances on their accounts. It’s a practice that goes against the Nutrition Services mission to “provide healthy foods to all students of SPPS.”
That means some students with a negative lunch balance will get an alternative meal of a cheese sandwich, milk and fruit and veggies from the “all you care to eat choice bar.” It’s worth noting that alternative meals are always served in a discrete and respectful manner and students are never shamed.
“If there are unpaid balances, the schools must pay them (from their budget) at the end of school year,” said Koppen. “Unpaid meal debts can be a critical problem and if left unaddressed can impact the quality of meals for all students.”
If a student has a negative balance then a well-established process is followed:
- Automated phone calls are sent when a student’s lunch account has reached a low balance ($5.00).
- A letter is mailed home in discrete, non-identifiable envelope to the parent/guardian when a balance has reached -$9.75.
- Principals are given a list of students whose negative balances have reached -$18.00 or more.
- Schools assist in contacting families to evaluate their needs, provide assistance, and request payment.
Currently 70 percent of SPPS students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. Sixty percent of our student body attends a school where all lunches are provided at no cost through Community Eligibility Provision.
The Nutrition Services staff always work with the mindset of what’s best for students, Koppen said. That includes enrolling students, expanding menu options and launching after-school meal programs.
“Schools, health agencies, parents and communities must continue to work together and share a common goal of supporting the link between healthy eating and improved academic performance,” she added.
All Families Encouraged to Complete Free and Reduced-Price Lunch Program Applications
The district is working now to enroll all eligible students in the Free and Reduced-price lunch program. The Dec. 15 deadline is fast approaching, but families can apply for the meal program at any time at mealapp.spps.org.
Completed applications not only determine eligibility for meal benefits, but also provide funding for math and reading programs at each school. All families, including those whose children receive free lunch through Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) schools, are encouraged to complete the application.
If you do not qualify for free or reduced-price meal benefits and you do not wish to provide your income, you are still strongly encouraged to complete an application by selecting the “over income” check box.
“Completing an Application for Educational Benefits and/or Free and Reduced-price Meals is important because these forms ensure our schools receive funding,” Koppen said.