Simplot Helping Battle School Lunch Debt

Dec 13, 2019

Simplot Helping Battle School Lunch Debt

Having unpaid student meal debt is common these days, both for students and school districts. Managing this growing debt has forced some school districts to take drastic measures to balance growing lunch program deficits, with some incidents making national news, and creating national awareness of the problem, with the Simplot Food Group committing to lend a hand.

Exactly how big is the problem?

How big is the problem? Big.

Three-quarters of school districts report that their program had unpaid student meal debt at the end of school year 2017/18, a number that’s stayed steady since 2014, according to the School Nutrition Association’s 2019 School Nutrition Trends Report.1

There has been change over this period of time, but not in a good way. While the number of school districts with debt remains static, the amount of per-student debt has risen from a median of $2,000-$2,500 in 2014 to a median of $3,400 in 2018.2

The number of students affected has grown as well, with nearly 40% of school districts reporting that the number of students who are not certified for free meals, and do not have the funds to pay for meals, has increased, just in the last year.3 Only about 10% of school districts have seen a decrease in that number.

Repayment happens, sometimes

About three quarters (72.4%) of the districts in the study say at least some of that debt has been paid down.4 However, one segment sees different results.  Larger districts do not fare as well, with fewer than one-half (47.6%) of the largest districts reporting any level of debt pay-down.5

How much of that debt is satisfied? The average amount paid down is just under one-half (46.2%) of the debt.6

Funds for food

Truth is, students aren’t the main source of repayment of lunch program debt. Charitable contributions account for the largest proportion of debt pay-down, followed by school districts themselves.  Here’s a look at where the money comes from:7

  • 55.4% charitable contributions
  • 36.2% school district general funds
  • 21.9% families/parents
  • 11.7% individual school funds
  • 11.2% PTA/PTO funds
  • 6.6% a la carte/competitive food/catering/adult meal sales
  • 1.0% state or local non-school district funds
  • 2.3% other
  • 3.8% unsure

Simplot takes on the cause

It’s pretty clear this is significant issue, and one that’s not going to go away soon. That’s why we at Simplot are joining in on supporting K-12 school districts with our School Nutrition Scholarship Program.

We’re donating funds in a variety of ways, starting with checks to needy school districts, including a recent donation of $15,000 to the San Diego School District, awarded at our recent Global Sales Meeting. 

We’re making donations all over the country! Look for us at our booth at School Nutrition Association and Commodity shows, as we’ll be giving away up to $500 per show to local school districts.

All told, we’ve provided $26,000 to school districts across America, hoping to make a difference in each of the communities where our Simplot Food Group employees live and work.

We’d love to hear from you

Does your school district have significant debt? Have you received our donation and have some feedback for us? Please let us know. To learn how Simplot can help, just reach out to your Simplot sales rep.


1, 2, 3 4 5 6, 7 http://schoolnutrition.org/uploadedFiles/6_News_Publications_and_Research/8_SNA_Research/2019-school-nutrition-trends-summary.pdf