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Hamburg Parents Distraught Over Lunch Program

They say they only found out about past due lunch charges after their elementary school children were served bagged lunches instead of regular meals.

HAMBURG, AR. - Parents of a south Arkansas elementary school are raising concerns over their children's lunch program.

“#1 is our children,” Vanessa Bowles and other reached out to us on Facebook, telling us the Hamburg School District dropped the ball on notifying parents of past-due lunch charges. They say kids are now suffering because of it.

“Some parents have not been informed that they owe money to the school, or they weren’t given enough time to pay that bill before the kids were handed a cheese sandwich and singled out in front of the other kids in the cafeteria,” said Bowles

She says the situation is humiliating for the children 

“I just know that kids are crying, they want to know why they’re getting fed this, they don’t understand.”

The school district insists they’re just following policy.

According to the district’s handbook, 

4.51— FOOD SERVICE CREDIT/PREPAYMENT

"The district does not offer credit for food items purchased in the school cafeteria; payment for such items is due at the time the food items are received. Under special circumstances, a student may accumulate a maximum of $10.00 in lunch charges in the Hamburg School District. Once a student has accumulated the maximum amount, they will be served a cheese sandwich and milk until all charges are paid.

A concerted effort will be made by the cafeteria staff to re-coop all charges using the normal means of correspondence with the parents and guardians.

Parents or students choosing to do so may pay weekly or monthly in advance for students’ meals

Meanwhile another parent thought both of her kids were on the free lunch program. Instead they brought home a bill over the holiday break.  When she called they gave her another quote.

“They have their charges completely wrong,” she said.

Both parents believe it’s the schools outdated billing system behind this entire mess. 

“We need a system, if the paper and pencil isn’t working in our school district,” adds Bowles. 

“No System is full-proof,” said Superintendent of Hamburg Schools, Max Dyson.  He says none of these parents have voiced their concerns to him.

“My question to the parents is ‘what is your biggest concern?’  The fact that you have to pay for the meal or the fact that you have this debt that you owe?  If you have this debt we will work with you,” said Dyson.

He believes parents were given ample time to sort out their finances before kids were served these lunches. 

“They need to step up to the plate and pay the debt they owe,” he adds. 

He also maintains those bag lunches meet the proper nutrition standards.

“We are feeding the children, which we don’t have to if they owe and cannot pay, but we’re not going to refuse to feed a child.”

In the meantime, parents have started this go-fund-me campaign online to cover the costs of outstanding bills.

"We don't want to get anybody in trouble by doing this, we just want to make sure these babies are fed,” said Bowles.  

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