- Associated Press - Saturday, November 2, 2019

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) - Schools in one Alabama school district say they’re no longer serving alternative meals to students who can’t pay.

Officials said schools in Dothan will now serve regular meals to all students - even if they don’t have the money to cover the cost when going through the line.

Local DJ Brandon Townsend, also known as DJ LastLaff, approached Dothan Preparatory Academy Principal Darius McKay at the beginning of October when Townsend came across a friend’s Facebook post who was upset to learn that as many as 44 students at the school could not eat regular lunches that day.

The Dothan Eagle reported Townsend said he shared his feelings with McKay and met with other administrators in hopes of finding a long-term solution.

“I just felt it was an issue that really shouldn’t be an issue,” Townsend said. “I shared my feelings with (McKay) in regards to finding a long-term solution that would be more permanent than a group of us donating to zero out those balances.”

Townsend met with Child Nutrition Program Director Tonya Grier and other administrators over several weeks. Together with Chief Financial Officer Mike Manuel, they came up with a solution assisted by crowdfunding software that the board recently licensed.

A “lunch benevolence fund” has been posted on the district’s LeanStream site to solicit donations, with the goal of receiving at least $2,000 by the end of the school year.

“Now we can start getting the word out that it’s a way for people to start donating money on LeanStream so that students cannot be embarrassed and have their lunches covered,” board member Susan Vierkandt said during a recent board meeting.

“We’re still going to move through and try to recapture the charges,” Chief Operations Officer Dennis Coe said. “We’re not going to stop trying to collect the money, so we don’t want students to think that you can just go and not pay. We are going to try to regain those funds. The charges are going to be cleared at the end of the year from the benevolence account.”

Townsend said earlier this week, the system had a negative balance of $1,700 in delinquent accounts.

“I thought something should be done to ease the minds of the community and ease the minds of the school board as well as the administration,” he said. “I know we’re having growing pains. I’m glad that I could spark light on something that could help the community. We’re all in this together.”

Townsend also has spoken with local business leaders to drum up support for the fundraising opportunity. So far, the fund has received one donation of $24.


Information from: The Dothan Eagle, http://www.dothaneagle.com

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