School Lunch Debt: Atlanta Public School’s Impending Issue


Low and Behold:The cause behind the debt.

Schools across the Atlanta Public School system are having to deal with the matter of school lunch debt. North Atlanta High School is no exception, as it has a large outstanding balance, coming at just above thirty thousand dollars. The problem occurs when students find themselves unable to pay for their meals at school. While there are initiatives including the free and reduced lunch program to help those in need, the application is mandatory and the coverage of free and reduced lunch only begins after approval, and any previous balance remains the same. Students can apply online and the only requirements are income information and the number of people inside the household. Afterwards, students will be contacted if they meet the criteria and are accepted into the program. Currently, 24 percent of the student body is enrolled. 

Regardless of a student’s ability to pay they will never have to go hungry, this is an APS policy but is strictly enforced at NAHS. “No student goes without food at North Atlanta despite any debt, We never deny any student a meal,” said Principal Douglas.  

While they may not go hungry many students worry about their debt, aware they have no way to pay. Many families are unaware of their students’ predicament until the school notifies them disclosing the balance. Seniors are threatened with their diplomas being held at graduation. “I don’t know how to break it to my parents,” said a junior who wished to remain anonymous. “I was so privileged with free lunch last year, I didn’t realize my dependency upon it until it was taken away.” 

North Atlanta and Midtown are the schools with the only clusters that have to pay for meals due to affluence. At many other schools, you simply eat for free. This comes down to the affluence at these two schools compared to others in the district. However this does not mean North Atlanta is forced to pay its debt, rather it becomes a district issue. Currently APS does not disclose how the district deals with the outstanding balance. “As a school, we do not feel a direct impact if a student does not pay their fee,” said Principal Douglas. 

Students having lunch is integral to their academic success and North Atlanta prioritizes the livelihood of its students over monetary value.