Columbia Public Schools alternate meals

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Public Schools said Tuesday the district has not been having students with a negative lunch balance eat an alternate meal like the district originally intended.

CPS had sent out an email to parents in August stating students would get a cheese sandwich, apple and water for lunch if they had a negative balance of $15 or more.

CPS Director of Nutrition Services Laina Fullum said the plan was never used because some principals expressed concern about students being affected by the district trying to collect money from the parents.

"The principals decided they would like to play a part in helping to contact families, which we realized became a very effective method to communicate with our families because they trust and know the principals," Fullum said.

Fullum said the district is "aggressively pursuing" collections from the families that are still in debt by working with the families.

She said the plan now is for principals to call parents and talk to them about their students' lunch balance and explain the options parents have, which include applying for free and reduced lunch or setting up payment plans.

"They would call them and let them know what their options were, because I think some of our families were just hiding from us because they didn't know what else to do," Fullum said.

Fullum said the lunch debt is down from $129,000 in June to $79,000. She said that is a result of both parents paying their bills and the district waiving some fees.