The policy in the Lubbock School District is to not let any child go away hungry, even if the district pays for the lunch and is never paid back. But just how much money is that and what process does LISD have in place to deal with this issue?
Almost 16,000 elementary students in LISD eat lunch at school everyday. That's almost 3 million lunches provided to students per school year. And for the children who can't pay for them, LISD steps in to help.
"We really hate for anybody to go hungry and sometimes because when parents get paid, we just make sure everybody gets at least a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and at least some cold milk," says Lori Andrus, principal at Nat Williams Elementary.
The food students eat is provided by a local corporation called Aramark.
"We run the food service department and that includes purchasing and preparing all the food," says Philip Archinal, Director of School Support Services at Aramark. He says his corporation has provided food to LISD for 15 years. And with thousands of students in the district, some are bound to end up going to school without lunch or money to buy it.
"It could be maybe their parents forgot that morning or they just got in a rush," says Andrus.
If this happens students are allowed to charge lunch 5 times. Twice for a full meal and then three times for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and milk.
"If, after those 5 charges that the policy takes care of, there's still another occurrence 10 times out of 10 someone is gonna help that student out. It may be a teacher, a principal or our cafeteria manager and that's not a policy that's written it's just probably what we would do for the student," says Archinal.
When students charge a lunch, a letter is sent home from the cafeteria manager notifying parents of the amount owed. If this amount isn't paid, students are still provided lunch even if those charges are never paid back.
"I know at the end of each year there are a number of charges that are left unpaid and we do have to write those off," says Archinal.
In the course of a school year on average the district spends about $1,500 for lunches that are never paid back. Many families who can't afford to pay for meals can apply for the free or reduced lunch program. In LISD, 56% of students qualify for this program which is paid for by the USDA.