Over 500 students at Groton Public Schools are in debt for meals that they didn't have the money for, but school leaders are trying to fix that.
Groton schools' food service officials are trying to put students’ bellies and brains at ease if they don't have the money for a meal upfront.
"We don't want to have a child think that they can't eat. And mostly for middle school and high schoolers, that they know their account is negative so they will skip breakfast and they will skip lunch. We don't want that to happen,” said Kristina Crandall, kitchen manager of Mary Morrison Elementary School.
"If I don't eat, I don't really concentrate and when I do I think things are easy for me,” said Layla Baez, a fifth grade student.
When students get to lunch they have three options -- they can get a salad, a sandwich, or a hot lunch.
It's $2.80 but it's $0.40 as a reduced cost for families that fall within a certain category or income bracket.
But even if you are within that bracket or outside of it, it doesn't always mean you can afford a lunch, and that's what kitchen management is fighting for.
About 540 Groton Public School students have a meal account that isn't paid off, leaving the school system with a $14,000 tab to cover but it could reach $20,000 by the end of the school year.
"They're allowed to charge up to three times. So, three breakfasts, three lunches and then negative account goes from there,” Crandall said.
Each school system has to take the total deficit of unpaid meals at the end of the year and it comes out of their budget, and could affect other activities or services.
Crandall started a new fundraiser called "Feed Their Bodies, Fuel Their Minds" to help.
"We don't know their stories. Our job is to feed them,” Crandall said.
Vendors that provide food for the school have contributed about $3,500 to the cause and Buffalo Wild Wings has been helping to get the word out.
"It's so important for these kids to get their school lunch. A lot of times the parents just don't have time in the morning or they don't have the money,” said Robyn Generali, registered nurse at Mary Morrison Elementary.
While they are making some headway with paying off some of that student debt for meals, they could still use some more help.
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