Fairfield school lunch program overhauled
The Fairfield Community School District will change the way it orders food in school year 2013-14 as well as change the consequences for student lunch accounts that have a negative balance, beginning next month.
The school board approved Auxiliary Services Director Fred McElwee’s recommendation for Fairfield schools to be part of a food-purchasing cooperative with Cardinal, Davis County and Van Buren schools at its April 8 board meeting.
“Last year, we didn’t re-bid [food purchasing] but extended the contract with Kohl Wholesale by a year because of all the changes in food guidelines, such as sourcing fresh vegetables,” said McElwee.
Now, the district has a better picture of what’s required, what gets eaten and what to order.
Each district will order food for its students.
“We’ll go through the procurement process more effectively, and having a co-op strengthens buying power,” said McElwee. “We ran this plan by the [Iowa] department of education, and it didn’t see any problems with it.”
Lunch and breakfast accounts for students in Fairfield schools have money deposited by parents/guardians, and students have individual account numbers assigned to type into a meal touch pad connected to a computer.
The school board policy committee reviewed the district’s practices and recommended changes.
“The board and administration of Fairfield community schools are concerned with the amount of debt owed to the school district in the form of negative lunch account balances, unpaid tuition fees and/or returned checks,” said McElwee.
“Due to the amount of outstanding debt owed to the school district, the district has contracted to provide professional collection services.”
District business manager Kim Sheets said Fairfield schools are carrying a negative $12,000 balance in student accounts.
Bad debt will be turned over to a collection agency, Financial Adjustment Bureau Inc. of Burlington, which will keep 35 percent for payment. Attempts will be made to collect the debt locally before forwarding them to the collection agency.
Local attempts will include email notifications and written correspondence. If those notifications do not get a response, the account holder should be aware the account will be sent to the collection agency and future communication will be through Financial Adjustment Bureau Inc.
The following conditions are instances when accounts will be forwarded to the collection agency:
• Lunch accounts with a negative balance of $15 or more.
• Returned checks that have not been successfully collected after 90 days.
• Unpaid tuition accounts in arrears for 90 days or more.
• After the initial implementation in May, lunch accounts with a negative $15 balance will be forwarded to the collection agency twice a year — May 30 and Oct. 30.
Anyone with questions is invited to call the business office at 472-2655.
Current practices include:
• Weekly email reminders are sent to accounts with a balance of $10 or less. This courtesy reminder is to let parents/guardians know to deposit more money soon. Money can be sent to the school for deposit or funds can be deposited electronically online.
• An email reminder is sent weekly to request payment when meal accounts reach a negative $5 balance.
• A monthly letter is sent for those accounts reaching a negative $5 balance.
• Accounts with a high negative balance receive a phone call requesting payment.
• Students who pay for meals are not served a regular meal when the negative balance reaches $15. Instead, students are given an option of peanut butter, butter or cheese sandwich and milk for lunch at no charge. This is to avoid additional charges to the account until the balance is paid or reduces. This practice is directed by Iowa Department of Education published in December 2010. Any student may choose this alternative so students are not singled out for a financial situation.
The board approved having the same guidelines for breakfast meals. And when a meal account reaches a negative $15 balance, no a la carte items can be charged until the account is corrected.