Unpaid lunch bill - West Virginia - Kanawha - Putnam - Cabell - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Numerous school lunch bills delinquent in West Virginia

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School lunch tray in Cabell County, WV. School lunch tray in Cabell County, WV.
CHARLESTON, WV -

Paying the bills can be a stressful responsibility for families trying to make it paycheck to paycheck.

Mounting debt is putting pressure on some area school systems prompting them to take to drastic measures to make sure lunch bills are paid.  Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring said several school lunch bills are going unpaid.

"Sometimes we went through collection agencies and got a portion of that back and some of it had to be written off because we just couldn't collect it no matter what we did," Duerring said.
 
But he said often times while parents don't qualify for free or reduced lunches for their children, they are still facing financial problems.

Kerra Layne's son Braxton is in elementary school. She said when times were tough, coming up with the money to pay for her son's school lunches became difficult. "There for a while I was unemployed and wasn't able to keep up," said Layne, who is now back to work.

Braxton receives free lunches now thanks to a program in Kanawha County that provides free meals to all students in elementary school and students at 6 of the county's middle schools.  But other counties in West Virginia are facing the same problem.

Rhonda McCoy is the Food Services Director for Cabell County Schools. She said two years ago the problem with unpaid bills was so bad the county started taking parents to Magistrate Court, in addition to reporting them to collection agencies.

In Putnam County Nutrition Director Stella Young said there are currently many parents that owe on outstanding lunch bills. If payments are not being made on a regular basis Young said accounts are sent to collection agencies. She said they are considering using Magistrate Court for certain accounts over a specific dollar amount.

"At a certain balance student accounts are flagged and meal charging privileges are revoked," Young said. "Letters are sent to parents requesting students to bring a cash payment when buying a meal or to bring a meal from home."

Meal prices are determined on the county level.  In Kanawha County, Duerring said the cost of the meals is far less than what it actually costs to produce the meals. Counties make up the difference through reimbursements from the federal government.