School lunch debt prompts parent action in Franklin County

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ROCKY MOUNT, Va. (WDBJ7) - Jasrielle Patterson never imagined it would end up like this. Tuesday, she found herself surround by a crowd of concerned parents outside the Franklin County School Board. And it all comes after her brother was denied a lunch.

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"Children shouldn't go without a meal. We can't concentrate without a meal," said Patterson.

Last Monday, Patterson's brother was denied lunch due to an unpaid debt. Patterson posted about it on Facebook, drawing the interest and attention of area parents.

For Franklin County elementary and middle students, if they can't pay their lunch bill, usually $2.50, they're provided with an alternate meal that day, usually a peanut butter sandwich.

But for high schoolers, nonpayment means no lunch.

"And no child should have to carry that burden," said Sherry Scott, one of the concerned parents at Tuesday's meeting.

Scott and the other parents were hoping to present $6,200 raised on GoFundMe to try and wipe out school debt in the county. Scott, a former school employee as well as a parent, also wanted to help the school board find a better way to handle the debt problem.

"I provided the school board with at least nine different copies of alternatives they could use," she said.

After most of the parents had left Tuesday's meeting, the board responded by saying it was interested in many of Scott's solutions.
Board members also hope to take up this issue at next month's meeting.

But according to Superintendent Dr. Mark Church, it all comes down to cost.

"So it's not a matter of not wanting to, it's a matter of resources," he said.

Church points out the school system has lots of needs right now, and very little money to spare for lunches.

But, say parents like Sherry Scott, the board should think long and hard about it's priorities.

"They can have the best technology. They can hire the best teachers in the state of Virginia, but as long as a child is sitting in class hungry, none of that matters," she said.

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