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Mccracken County Schools
5347 Benton Rd.     Paducah, KY 42003
Phone: 270-538-4000
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CSI Donation Erases McCracken County Schools Student Lunch Debt
Paducah Sun
Before the McCracken County School District provided free meals through the Community Eligibility Provision program, some students had to pay for breakfast or lunch.

Some students were unable to pay because their parents were unable to pay, or didn’t pay. Schools fed students and kept record of the meal tab.

The district now provides free meals, stopping additional debt, but the previously incurred debt remained. Until Wednesday.

Computer Services Inc., a local company, picked up the tab by providing the school district with a check for the full amount: $49,114.51.

CSI Chair and CEO Steve Powless presented McCracken Superintendent Steve Carter with a check that erased every penny of that acquired student food debt.

“I was out for a morning run a week ago and had the headphones on,” Powless said. “I was listening to a station and just caught them talking about a story about a school district some where out on the east coast that had some student lunch debt and someone had made a donation to relieve that debt.”

Powless went home and talked with his wife, Nancy, about what student lunch debt is and how it is accrued. Nancy was a longtime teacher in the McCracken district.

Powless researched it online and found that 75% of school districts in the U.S. have some form of student lunch debt.

“It’s not something that people would ever think about,” he said. “I’ve never thought about it.”

Powless spoke with school districts in and around Paducah and found that McCracken County was the only local school system to have a sizeable lunch debt.

“I was astounded,” he said. “When you consider the price of lunch and that much debt accumulating, that tells you what the need is.

“You’ve got all these people who couldn’t afford to pay for lunch, and that debt follows them all the way from elementary school to middle school to high school.

“We’ve got a very strong sense of responsibility at CSI to the community. We believe that if we have an opportunity to help others out in situations like this, it’s really a privilege to be able to do something like this.”

Powless said CSI is hopeful that other people — perhaps a student who was affected by student lunch debt — will pick up on his idea and help eliminate that debt.

Carter said the school district is grateful for the contribution.

“It goes back to the fact that the community is very supportive of our students,” Carter said. “CSI being willing to help with this contribution, to give back to the community, says a lot about the quality of people we have who are proud of McCracken County.

“That debt could have lasted for years, and for CSI to come in and be so gracious and generous to pay off this debt for so many people is far-eaching and a great example of people giving back to the community.”

Sara Jane Hedges, McCracken director of food services, said the debt was incurred by 289 students, or an average of $169.95 per student.

“I have been (director of food services) for six years total, so this could be debt that was acquired even prior to that,” she said. “Before we went to the Community Eligibility Provision program, we just used the traditional income form that qualified a student based on their household income.”

Hedges said that no student was ever denied a meal if they were unable to pay, and the food services department would try to get some kind of payment on the debt from the parents over the years.

“We have had collection agencies call (the parents), we have had our resource officers call, and our managers still periodically call to request payment on those unpaid charges,” Hedges said. “Food services would keep holding that debt and keep moving forward.”

Hedges said that debt revenue could have gone toward several items for food services, including menu items, kitchen equipment or extra workers.

“That debt being collected is going to be a huge blessing to our operation and the famlies (who owed it),” she said. “For someone else to see the need and pay that debt for families who may not be able to, it’s going to enable those students to be able to get food items that they may not have been able to before.”

Powless said student lunch debt was dif ficult on everyone involved.

“It’s got to be difficult on the administration to have to deal with (the debt),” he said. “It’s got to be difficult on the students when they have to do that, so the good news is, going for ward, the slate’s clean and we hope that it’s something that lifts people up.

“It’s a lot of money, but it was a pretty easy decision, and it made a unique opportunity to really have an impact at a student level.”
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McCracken County Schools
District Office
5347 Benton Rd. Paducah, KY 42003
Phone: 270-538-4000
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5347 Benton Road
Paducah, KY 42003
(270) 538-4000
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Paducah, KY, 42003
(270) 538-4000
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McCracken County Schools
5347 Benton Road
Paducah, KY 42003
phone:  270-538-4000
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