As the Crook County School District works to collect some $27,000 in lunch money it’s owed, some kind folks have stepped up to help.

At least five area residents have donated a total of $1,050 to help reduce the debt. At the same time, parents whose kids had unpaid cafeteria bills have paid off another $1,000 or so, according to the Central Oregonian newspaper. It’s a start.

The problem of unpaid lunch bills is not limited to Crook County, and nationwide the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and ­Nutrition Service has adopted a rule that requires school districts to have consistent policies regarding unpaid meals by the beginning of the coming school year.

At the same time, Oregon lawmakers this year approved a measure that bans so-called lunch shaming. The measure requires districts to serve standard meals to all students who ask for them and to focus collection efforts on parents, not kids. It also prevents districts from somehow identifying children who owe money for breakfasts or lunches, and it bars districts from having children work off their debts.

In Crook County, meanwhile, generous residents have not only made donations to reduce lunch debt, they’ve convinced the district to find a way to allow donors to give online. That task should be completed by the time school starts, according to the Central Oregonian.

With some 54.9 percent of Crook County school children eligible for free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch, according to the state Department of Education, meals served at school are especially important, and clearly county residents want to make certain the district is paid for all who need them.

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