CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Starting this year, the USDA requires school districts to tell parents what their policies are regarding school lunch accounts
TV9 caught up with parents who were picking up their kids after Pierce Elementary in Cedar Rapids let out. Did they know about the district's policy if the lunch account reaches zero?
"No, I did not," Sara Wiggins said.
"I did not," Anna Courtney said.
The Cedar Rapids Community School District displays its lunch policies online.
High school students cannot receive any lunch once an account reaches zero. Elementary and middle school students cannot receive a "hot lunch" once an account reaches zero. Instead, these kids will be offered a sandwich. It's one of four options students are offered each day.
"Every student has that option for the sun butter sandwich. And honestly it's a popular choice and that would be the alternate meal they would receive," Nutrition Manager Suzy Ketelsen said.
District employees says this is a 15-year-old policy, that they've made adjustments to over the years, like notifying parents.
"I always just make sure their balance is current. I get an email saying if they need any money in their account or anything," Wiggins said.
The district now sends out bi-weekly emails when a lunch account reaches about five dollars.
"We really want to partner with families, it's really a tough situation when students get caught in that," Ketelsen said.
But one parent says that policy isn't fair; punishing kids when parents forget, or can't pay.
"How can you not want to provide kids with a nutritious lunch? Peanut butter is not going to fill a kid up," Courtney said.
TV9 reached out to the Cedar Rapids school district today to see how many kids have negative lunch account balances. A district representative says those numbers are not readily available.
Students can get free or reduced price lunches if they qualify based on family income, or if a child attends a high-needs school where all students get free meals without having to fill out any paperwork.