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Staley News

The news site of Staley High School

Staley News

The news site of Staley High School

Staley News

Tackling Food Insecurity: Students Struggle To Afford Food

Reagan Atkins

Since the pandemic, food insecurity has been on the rise. In the United States, 30.4 million students can’t afford school lunch, according to the Education Data Initiative.

In the school community, some students don’t qualify for free or reduced lunch prices, but they struggle to eat every day. Their family’s income is not low enough to qualify for the National School Lunch Program but not high enough to maintain stability and have money to pay for school meals daily.

“Although almost everyone that applies for free lunch seems to qualify, it’s just hard to get the message out to parents,” assistant food service manager Kasey Huntley said.

For high schoolers, lunch costs $3.25, and breakfast is $1.80. The requirements to qualify for free and reduced lunch changes each school year.

“The free lunch fluctuates every year based on government guidelines. It doesn’t fluctuate a lot, but what fluctuates more is the community,” cafeteria manager Lisa Ruedisueli said.

Ruedisueli said qualifying for free lunch depends on the parent and guardians’ financial situation, such as number of dependents and annual income.

Since the pandemic, I have definitely seen a 100% rise in the students’ struggle for food.

— Tammy Slauson, Community Resource Specialist

“The goal for the food cabinet is to keep kids taken care of here. It serves the ones that need it,” School Community Recourse Specialist Tammy Slauson said.

Slauson said she has made it her mission to help students struggling with food insecurity. She worked to store food for students in a cabinet located in her office.

“There were a lot of kids that were going hungry, and the nurse couldn’t provide for them,” Slauson said. “She only had so much to provide, so I started to put out snacks, and more kids started coming in.”

Slauson said her cabinet became too small for the stock she maintains, and she had to make arrangements just to make sure there was enough food for the kids who needed it, about 15 per day.

She said she supplied her stock by getting a budget at the beginning of the year which was $500-$700. She also hosted an annual fundraiser “Fa-la la Falcon,” where teachers paid $20 to wear jeans, and she used the money to buy food.

“That money we receive is dedicated to helping kids out, such as buying them new shoes or things like that. At the beginning of the year we get our vouchers, so if kids need that after that, we typically don’t have a lot of resources,” Slauson said.

She also used donations from Harvesters. Slauson said principal Larry Smith, Ed.D., has been an important provider when it came to the food pantry.

“Dr Smith is incredibly supportive of making sure we have food for kids,” Slauson said. “So, he gave me a purchase order to restock the food in the food pantry area. Which is awesome that he does that because not all

buildings are like that.” Slauson said she stored the pantry with more nutritious snacks after realizing how many students she was feeding.

“I have so many kids eating these snacks,” Slauson said.

Slauson saw an increase in students needing food.

“Since the pandemic, I have definitely seen a 100% rise in the students’ struggle for food,” Slauson said.

During the height of the pandemic, school lunch and breakfast were free, which helped out families of all income levels. But since the cost of lunches went back to the normal rate, there have been misconceptions that have caused some kids to go hungry. Not everyone who qualifies knows how to access these services.

“It’s hard to get that message to parents about free lunch,” Slauson said. “We have sent out letters and paperwork; the message just never seems to get to them.”

Slauson said it seems as though

it’s harder to reach parents who need help paying for lunch for their children. She also said almost everyone who applies qualifies.

“There’s a lunch policy where kids cannot be charged when they have more than negative $25 in their lunch account,” Slauson said.

Slauson said that is known as a benevolent lunch. It’s where a kid can’t be charged anymore in their lunch account. In this scenario, the cafeteria would provide lunch for them.

And the hunger issue is in more than one school in the northland. Slauson said some of the neighboring schools such as Winnetonka and Oak Park high schools also have food pantries.

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