Do students being served peanut butter sandwiches due to low lunch-account balances feel humiliated?
Not likely.
That was the consensus of the Decorah School Board Monday night before finally approving the second reading of the District’s wellness policy.
Since approving the first reading of the policy in January, the Board has come under fire for its decision to approve the policy, which dictates students with a negative lunch account balance of $30 or more are offered peanut butter sandwiches instead of a regular school lunch. The Board has tabled the issue twice in previous meetings.
“This is something the public has been very interested in. We’ve even been chastised a little bit on Facebook,” said Board Member Brian Petersburg.
Petersburg said since last month’s meeting, he had done some research. There have been only nine times since the school year started that students were denied purchasing a regular lunch and provided with a peanut butter sandwich.
‘It’s happening very infrequently … There have been some concerns that maybe the children who were getting these (peanut butter sandwiches) would stand out … In February, there were 477 peanut butter sandwiches served to students who chose to have them as their meal,” said Petersburg.
Petersburg said in talking with school principals and staff it seems almost impossible for other students to know if students are eating peanut butter because of a situation with their lunch account.
“I hope we can put this to rest,” said Petersburg.

Hard to manage
Petersburg again brought up the idea of an “angel fund,” donated funds that could be set aside to help families pay their negative balances.
He said in checking with District personnel, it sounds like disbursing those funds would be an “accounting nightmare.”
“The District has a good policy. I don’t think we need to fix anything,” said Petersburg.
Superintendent Mike Haluska said all districts are required to have a policy in place by July 1 of this year.
“I did some checking and we have three conference schools that don’t let students walk through the line when their accounts get to zero,” said Haluska.
When Petersburg again asked the Board if it felt the District had any type of problem, Board President Ron Fadness said, “I think we did in the past, but Kristi (Roffman) has cleared that up.” (Fadness was referring to District Food Service Secretary Kristi Roffman’s attempts to work with families with overdue balances.)
When Petersburg asked Middle School Principal Leona Hoth and Carrie Lee Principal Cheryl Miller if they had concerns, neither expressed any.
“They eat pretty fast. They just want something to eat,” said Hoth.
Adam Riley, Decorah High School associate principal/activities director, said with the wide variety of food options via ala carte, it’s pretty difficult to notice any difference anyway.
“That is the input that means the most to me,” concluded Fadness.