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Recession Making It Tougher For Schools To Feed Students

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TPS finished last year with $15,000 in unpaid meals. TPS finished last year with $15,000 in unpaid meals.
If students are worried about where their next meal is coming from, they aren't learning, said Steve Terry, Child Nutrition Director. If students are worried about where their next meal is coming from, they aren't learning, said Steve Terry, Child Nutrition Director.
TPS says it will never let a child go without a meal. TPS says it will never let a child go without a meal.

By Dan Bewly & Scott Thompson, The News On 6

Area schools are seeing an increase in the number of students qualifying for a free or reduced lunch, and districts are seeing more parents who owe lunch money.

The lost lunch money is putting school districts in dilemma. How do they balance collecting money while not letting the kids go without a meal?

At Tulsa Public Schools, 42,000 kids are served meals everyday.

"Some of the kids, it may be the only meal they eat all day," said Steve Terry, Child Nutrition Director of Tulsa Public Schools.

School officials say healthy meals take a high priority in the district, even if parents have a difficult time coming up with the money.

"If you've got a kid sitting in a classroom worrying about where he's going to eat, when he's going to eat, he's not learning, he's not educating," Terry said.

TPS finished last year with $15,000 in unpaid meals. The district says it will work with parents to get the money paid back but admits some of it has to be written off.

We checked with a number of other schools about the problem.

In Sand Springs, the district has $3,500 in outstanding meal charges so far this year.

In Broken Arrow, $3,000 dollars is owed for meals. Sapulpa is faring a bit better with $820 in outstanding meal charges.

In Okfuskee County, after the Okemah School District lost $4,700 in lunch money last year, officials considered refusing to feed some students but instead will now offer a sandwich and milk.

TPS says it will never let a child go without a meal. In fact, Steve Terry says, by adding programs like breakfast in the classroom, the district has seen direct, positive affects of the importance

of a well-fed student.

"We've seen a drop in tardiness, absenteeism, behavioral problems because that child no longer has to worry about eating, that child's worrying about learning now."

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