By Murray Gleffe, Correspondent
ASHWAUBENON-Betsy Farah is a registered dietician and the Child Nutrition Coordinator for the Ashwaubenon Public Schools.
What many people might not know is the amount of help students need in order to receive a quality meal at lunch in the Village of Ashwaubenon.
Children from the poorest families get free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch if they apply for government subsidization.
Currently the District has 786 students that receive free meals and 252 that receive reduced-charged meals.
Families that qualify for reduced meals pay a total of $.70 for both (daily).
When you add that up for a year, parents are still struggling to meet the cost due to such conditions as a lost job, medical bills, or other unforeseen problems.
“Whatever the reason children shouldn’t be made to go the day without any lunch,” said Farah. “We don’t want the student to feel bad or stuck in the middle. It is not their fault. They deserve to get treated fairly while attending school.”
The Optimist Club and Lioness Club have stepped in and donated their dollars to help with everything from baking utensils for the cooks to helping with special at-risk cases.
“I can’t thank both groups enough for what they have given to our food program,” Farah added. “The men and women that volunteer their time to help such a worthy cause is beyond words.”
Even after that, when you have over 1000 students that qualify for help, and a number more that haven’t filled out the proper paperwork, a big problem still is in place.
“Overdrawn lunch accounts create real financial challenges for many school districts, forced to weigh mounting costs against unsatisfied students and families,” adds Farah. “School-meal programs typically operate independently of districtwide budgets and rely on sales to cover food and labor costs. Parents and administrators must work together to reach a balance and develop meal policies that respect students while preventing escalating and unpaid meal debts.”
This problem isn’t just relegated to Wisconsin. It is a National and World issue.
The debate, over debts and child nutrition, has spilled into state legislatures and reached Capitol Hill. At the federal level, language has been proposed for next year’s House appropriations bill that would set minimum standards to protect children from public embarrassment and leave them out of the payment discussions.
Farah has seen a lot in the District and there is one story she said she would like to share.
“There is a sweet little 1st grade boy who had been deactivated for four weeks. Every day he heard me announce what the menu choices were for the day and usually got this forlorn look on his face because the menu item is often one of his favorites and he knows his options are limited. On special occasion menus days, we pay for his lunch and the look on his face is priceless,” says Farah.
Unfortunately, this is only one of hundreds of stories that are out there concerning student needs.
We are currently in the year 2018.
We should be taking care of our students’ health and nutrition first and foremost to ensure their well-being.
“I hope a time comes when no student has to be burdened with worry about the family finances and wondering if or what they’ll eat for lunch,” Farah lastly comments.
If you want more information on how to help students in the Ashwaubenon School District, please contact Betsy Farah via email at [email protected]