Muskegon area school says lunch accounts can't go into the red

Orchard View students receive no lunch if their account balance is negative, even by a few cents

MUSKEGON COUNTY, MICH. - In an effort to rein in food account debt at Orchard View schools in Muskegon County, the school informed parents on Friday of new procedures that started on Monday, Dec. 4.

The letter to parents details a number of procedures for students in kindergarten to eighth grade. The letter tells parents, "maintaining a positive balance in your child's account is essential."

The new procedure specific to the high school states, "a Zero Charge Procedure will be in place; no charging at all, except in the case of an emergency. No food will be available unless your child's account remains above $0.00."

"I thought this can't be true," said Orchard View parent Brandi Budde. "Why would they take food away from our children. They need to eat."

Budde says parents didn't have sufficient time to check food service accounts. On Monday, it meant her daughter was told she couldn't purchase a lunch because her account was negative five cents.

"They were going to take my lunch, but somebody I know paid for my lunch," said Sierra Ferrier.

Ferrier says other students weren't so fortunate.

"They were taking people's lunch and putting them on a cart behind the lunch ladies," she said. "They were just taking their lunch away."

Tuesday afternoon Orchard View School Superintendent Jim Nielson put the "no charging procedure" at the high school on hold.

A message to parents and students on the school's social media accounts reads, "At Orchard View Schools we care deeply about our students and their success. In response to our concerned parents, we are putting the new lunch procedure announced yesterday on hold, and are working on an alternative solution to lunch debt. All students are receiving lunch in all school buildings." 

"That is awesome," said Budde. She's not suggesting students rack up food account debt, but thinks there's a better way to respond to those situation.

And her daughter agrees there must be a better way to make sure kids get their lunch.

"Some people were very negative, which I understand if you are really really negative," said Farrier. "A couple of cents should not be that big of a deal."

Tuesday afternoon Orchard View schools announced on social media a special account to help lift the burden of unpaid lunch debt.

Cash or checks can be made out to Orchard View School with "lunch fund" in the memo line.

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