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Sioux Falls Schools Plan to Deny Meals to Kids Whose Parents Fall Behind on Payments

Since the Legislature refused to spend any of the hundreds of millions of extra dollars pouring into its coffers on funding school meals the way Minnesota is doing, the Sioux Falls school district has to track school lunch debt, which may reach $400,000 by the end of this school year, and denying kids meals if their parents get too far behind on their meal tickets:

District child nutrition coordinator Gay Anderson says the district is moving toward trouble with lunch debts. In fact, the district is looking at a $400,000 hit to the general fund assuming current trends continue through May. Anderson explains the letter of the school districts policy.

“We have a policy in place that states from $0 to -$20 we are not to be feeding them breakfast,” Anderson said. “If they are more than -$20 in their account, we would be giving them a ‘smart snack,’ but we would have to charge them a dollar for that. Once they hit -$75, our policy states that we are not to be feeding them, and that’s not something anybody wants to be doing.”

…Anderson reports total local school lunch debt rates had gone up from $7,000 district-wide in 2012 to $220,000 last year [C.J. Keene, “Sioux Falls School District to Begin Enforcing School Lunch Policy,” SDPB Radio, 2023.11.27].

More families finding even the cheapest, healthiest square meals their kids can get unaffordable? How can that be, amidst an economy that Governor Kristi Noem insists is the strongest in the country?

Senator Reynold Nesiba (D-15/Sioux Falls), who represents a lot of the Sioux Falls families who may be struggling to pay for their kids’ school meals, is on a Twitter tear over his school district’s no-soup-for-you policy made possible by his Republican colleagues’ fiscal refusenikery:

Reynold Nesiba, tweet, 2023.11.27.
Reynold Nesiba, tweet, 2023.11.27.
Reynold Nesiba, tweet, 2023.11.27.
Reynold Nesiba, tweet, 2023.11.27.
Reynold Nesiba, tweet, 2023.11.27.
Reynold Nesiba, tweet, 2023.11.27.

Senator Nesiba’s House colleague Representative Kadyn Wittman (D-15/Sioux Falls), who sponsored the free-school-meal legislation that Republicans immediately rejected last Session, shares Nesiba’s disgust at the state’s messed-up moral and fiscal priorities:

Rep. Kadyn Wittman, tweet, 2023.11.27.
Rep. Kadyn Wittman, tweet, 2023.11.27.

Rep. Wittman said this summer she’ll push another bill to fund school meals for all students in 2024. And even the Governor’s mouthpiece blog, which tries to obfuscate our moral clarity with a question-marky headline, may be ready to concede that Republicans should go along with this moral and practical proposal:

If the majority of school lunches are free or reduced cost anyway, why don’t we at least remove the issue and the overhead of having schools having to chase that debt?  We argue that schools should have fewer mandates anyway… which comes right before we put new ones on them, and legislators try to send their funding elsewhere.  So, why not make it free?  Or is the concept of a free lunch for public school children a tougher debate than that? [Pat Powers, “Should School Lunch Be a Government Entitlement? Or Is It a Deeper Debate Than Just Feeding Kids?South Dakota War College, 2023.11.27]

It’s not a deeper debate, Pat. Food is good for kids. When we as a state can afford to decorate NASCAR cars and dress the Governor as a plumber on national TV, we can afford to pay for the meals every kid needs to power through another day of mandatory school attendance.


  1. sx123 2023-11-28

    The kids here can’t leave the school for lunch (in general) and are either forced to eat the garbage swill they serve (my kids send me pics), or pack a lunch. Mine usually pack a lunch.

    It would be unethical to prevent someone from leaving and then not feed them whether they pay or not. It’s not the kid’s fault.

    I highly recommend packing a lunch..

  2. larry kurtz 2023-11-28

    Pat has a passel of sick kids so no wonder he’s looking for a government handout.

  3. All Mammal 2023-11-28

    Jfc, of all the appropriations argued over and dished out every year, feeding school kids might as well be a stinky gym sock by how it turns up snooty noses in Pierre. Bunch of privileged honkies who wouldn’t hesitate to feed themselves filet mignon off the labors of the brokest folks in the country.

    What are we doing? What else is more worthy of punching in in the cold, dark morning so that our conservative government can call dibs on our crappy hourly earnings, than to help alleviate childhood hunger? We need to stop electing trumpers to make our decisions and spend our tax dollars. Get rid of every single ivermectin- taking insurrectionist follower who does not understand that the kids we are fine with watching go hungry today are going to leave as soon as they are able, and the GOED will have to spend millions begging them to stay and work.

    They look like stingy Sarah Huckabee-Sanders when their noses go up over school lunch debt.

    Everything about SD’s priorities is methed up.

  4. e platypus onion 2023-11-28

    Doesn’t paying to feed school kids fall under the heading forcing every pregnancy to full term or else?

  5. ABC 2023-11-28

    Noem likes to starve kids. And her republican honky whores do too.

    Impeach them all!

  6. Jet Johnson 2023-11-28

    Shameful. Absolutely shameful that South Dakota schools can feed kids slop hardly fit for a hog, and then have the audacity to put the kids in debt for it. I guess it is a good introduction to the American system of credit.

  7. O 2023-11-28

    South Dakota has such a long standing tradition of underfunding public education in general that I’m sure there is fear that if the elected officials start to actually see, program-by-program, the effects that underfunding has then it is not just an abstraction but a concrete reality.

    Remember, the GOP “right to life” ends once the child draws that first breath; then it’s bootstrap pulling time. Fortunately our GOP friends are easing child labor laws so these children can get at least work to pay for their own meals.

  8. Donald Pay 2023-11-28

    I come at this topic from a number of perspectives. As a father whose income was crunched at one point, I had to sign up my daughter for a few months of reduced lunch. She could have qualified for free school lunch, but I was too ashamed not to kick something in. I was able to swing the cost of lunch at the reduced price, so I lied on the high side about how much money I made. And we absolutely did not sign up for food stamps. It is pretty difficult psychologically to have to sign up for reduced school lunch. It’s humiliating. My lack of income lasted only a few months, but I got a taste of how too many people have their pride crushed because they lack income. But it was better that my pride was crushed than my daughter didn’t eat lunch. I suppose having your pride crushed makes you a bit more humble. It also makes you take any survival job that comes along. I learned that no job lacks dignity. I learned that everyone needs a little help now and then.

    Second, school lunches at most school districts are bad. They are the bottom shelf of industrial food. They may be nutritionally adequate according to government standards, but that and 50 cents won’t buy you a meal that is really healthy for you. It also doesn’t help when half the food ends up in the garbage.

    Third, when I was on the board of education in Rapid City, we voted to close schools during lunch periods. Most students showed up for school in the mornings because parents drove them or were paying more attention then. When school lunches were open and students could walk or drive to the nearby fast food places, we found too many of them were tempted to abscond. Closing lunch was a way to prevent absences that led to dropping grades, failed classes and dropping out.

    Fourth, if students were going to be forced to eat lunch at school, we had to feed them what they wanted to eat, while providing some better choices nutritionally. So we decided to have a taco bar. more pizza slices, etc. Probably not the best food, but we also were going to put in a salad bar. Giving students food choices is a way to make school more interesting.

    Fifth, Pat Powers is correct. It takes money to administer the free and reduced price lunch program. I would rather have that money going into food than to needless overhead.

    Sixth, if some wealthier parents or community members want to donate money for this, that is great! I don’t think everything has to be done through tax dollars. I do worry about fairness, though. Some communities may not have as many wealthy folks willing and able to donate. In the end, I think it all needs to be equalized across the state.

  9. O 2023-11-28

    Shouldn’t SD, an an agricultural state, do a far better job providing good lunches, healthier lunches, farm-to-plate lunches for school kids? Does SD produce food anymore?

  10. Ben Cerwinske 2023-11-28

    When we began having a self-serve salad bar here in Spearfish a few years ago, I had my doubts. We provide it all the way down to kindergarten, which is what I work with. The fruit and vegetables we serve are of generally decent, if not good quality. If anything, we have to concern ourselves with students taking more than they could possibly eat, rather than the few who balk at taking anything. Serve high quality, healthy food in reasonable proportions and they will eat it and waste much less.

  11. larry kurtz 2023-11-28

    Stan Adelstein has paid off Rapid City’s school lunch arrears at least once under his own name and probably more times anonymously, Hani Shafai should to if he hasn’t already.

  12. Richard Schriever 2023-11-28

    Ben is right. Human children are smart little organisms that know what’s good for them instinctually, until you train them not to with advertising and other oligarchic marketing mechanisms.

  13. Tom K 2023-11-28

    It is a shame that any schoolchild should go hungry during the school day. It would be great if the state could fund a statewide program to make this possible, but barring that outcome, there are some things that are being done on a local level. The Custer School District received donations of beef and bison that has allowed them to offer free breakfast to all students for the rest of this school year. I am sure there are some other school districts that have received similar donations. It would be nice if South Dakota’s #1 cowgirl could encourage other ranchers and packing plants to make more donations.

  14. jakc 2023-11-28

    It makes me hope for Judgment Day when people will have to explain to God why they didn’t feed hungry school kids.

  15. Arlo Blundt 2023-11-28

    Kids are always hungry. By noon they are very hungry. They lack experience with different foods, but will learn to eat anything tasty that fills up the hole in their stomach. Eating at school is not an elective. A good nutritionist on staff will soon solve the alleged ‘food waste” issue. This is a problem worthy of our attention and public funding.

  16. grudznick 2023-11-28

    No free lunches for slackards!!! Pay for your kids’ lunch, you slackards, or scar them for life. But they won’t die of starvation, as the peanut butter sandwiches they will still get will make them grow bigger and stronger than the lime jello and chicken nuggets the regular kids whose parents are paying the bill get.

    Side note, this is a topic of our old friend Dr. Boz. You fellows remember Dr. Boz, I am sure. gruznick is here to tell you that tomorrow, Wednesday, is her birthday, so please, live it up in the name of Dr. Boz and do the anti-keto things you like to do.

  17. e platypus onion 2023-11-29

    Place the names of all registered magat voters in a hat and draw names for each student who can’t pay their school lunch bills. Then that drawn person will be responsible for every child forced to be born into that student’s family, as well.

  18. Eve Fisher 2023-11-29

    How many school lunches would Kristi’s little trip to France have paid for? Or her jaunts all around the country to promote herself?

  19. John 2023-11-30

    It ain’t rocket science. Either create a school “lunch hour” so kids may return home for lunch – or – provide lunch to the captive audience.

    Meanwhile . . . here’s an update on the teacher strike that you likely hadn’t heard about. Portland teachers struck on 1 Nov. It was the first teacher strike in the history of the district. The teachers contract expired in June. The teachers union made mostly reasonable demands. The republican-acting school board refused to negotiate. After 5 months of school board intransigence, the teachers struck. Teachers needed a pay bump in response to the trumpian transitory inflation, commensurate benefit bump, and improved rules for coping with swelling class sizes. Most parents were firmly behind the teachers. The “free-baby sitting” editorial board of the Oregonian did nothing in the recent past advocating for education or for students, or the teachers. The school board came to its senses after nearly 4 weeks. Teachers supported the negotiated contract by a 95% margin. This also wasn’t rocket science; merely rightwingnut bullheadedness.

  20. Donald Pay 2023-11-30

    Grudz, glad to know the conservative elite are so empathetic to the plight of many children in your community. While you’re dripping gravy down your silk shirt at one of your elite breakfasts, why not have a few of those kids lap up the gravy and crumbs that dribble down to the floor. Then they wouldn’t have to have free or reduced price lunch. Calling these kids’ parents “slackards,” of course, is what I expect from “conservatives” who breakfast on gravy that clogs the arteries to the brain. Most parents on free and reduced lunch work at jobs that elitists like your word refuse, even if you were starving. So, maybe you should think before you blog.

    You are correct that school lunch is not the best in many school districts. It’s better than nothing, though. It doesn’t help when Republican Presidents and lawmakers decide to call a dab of ketchup a vegetable. And some kids are allergic to peanuts, so your peanut butter sandwich would kill. Republicans, generally, especially those who think themselves as “conservative,” don’t think about the real cost of a child with an empty stomach. Real conservatives think about all the costs that end up costing taxpayers because they don’t consider that as they steal food from them.

  21. Mike Zitterich 2023-11-30

    Parents who cannot feed their children, should not have been having chilren. Promoting Safe Sex, better, NO SEX prior to marriage will make this a better place to live. Women need to keep their zippes closed, and men need to keep their zippers closed until they find the right life partner. People are tired of paying for everyone else, when they have to pay their own cost of living in todays era of 50% Inflation due to much government red tape.

  22. O 2023-11-30

    Or . . . businesses all must pay a living family wage. Promoting social responsibility and not relying on welfare to make up for poor salaries will make this a better place to live — for EVERYONE.

  23. larry kurtz 2023-11-30

    Zitterich is partly right: Republicans need to stop breeding, for sure.

  24. e platypus onion 2023-11-30

    Magats need to mind their own business and keep their hands off women’s reproductive lives.and kids bodies.

  25. Bob Newland 2023-11-30

    Mikey Lee proposes a good argument to allow women to have unwanted growths relieved from their abdomens.

  26. Mike Zitterich 2023-11-30

    It strikes me as odd, everyone blames the man for having sex, when women want to enjoy sex just as much as the man does. But when it comes to being responsible for ones actions, the man gets blamed for getting the woman pregnant, and the woman refuses to take responsibility for her actions. The South Dakota law holds people accountable. It does NOT punish women for electing to have abortions, but it holds the medical profession accountable to the law in terms of ensuring the proper process is being performed, prior to the abortion itself. We have a well written law in which protects the life of both the woman and the baby. Meaning, our law is written in the image of South Dakota People, a ‘sovereign people’ fully capable to self govern themselves, under the House of God, to which we swore an oath to to protect Life, Liberty, Pursuit to Happiness, and Property.

    It strikes me as odd, that the “woman” is always attempting to pass the buck in all things related to the pregnancy, forcing the “man” to pay dearly for all things related to the pregnancy, right down to forcing men to pay Child Support even if they are already providing their “child” housing, food, clothing, and already paying their 50% share of education and healthcare costs.
    It seemingly, appears as if the “Woman” believes they do not have to be responsible for the choices they make themselves.

    If offended anyone, So what, be offended. It is a free country.

  27. O 2023-11-30

    It strikes me as odd that theocratic righties are so concerned about which consenting adults are having sex and how they are doing it, It strikes me as odd that theocratic righties want to legislate restrictions to birth control. It strikes me as odd that theocratic righties will spend more time and resources on this than feeding children in need under the pretense of holding adults responsible. Shove your small-minded theocracy in the most offensive place you can fit it.

  28. All Mammal 2023-12-01

    THANK YOU for being beautiful, fresh protein donors in the Custer school district, and Mr. Adelstein, and Each And every one of the other sweethearted lunch debt balancers, and school staff, and classroom Mom/Unci/Caring parent, and everyone else contributing to raising the most precious generation we will ever know. That food and love is tangible for some time. Way to go.

  29. All Mammal 2023-12-01

    N yes, way to go, O.

  30. larry kurtz 2023-12-01

    Denny Sanford should pay off all the Sioux Falls school lunch arrears.

  31. larry kurtz 2023-12-01

    Recall Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling or MCOOL was repealed during the second Obama term to shield American commodities from scrutiny because every ag product, meats both wild and domestic not grown organically in the United States is contaminated with atrazine, neonicotinoids, glyphosate, dicamba, DDT, mercury, lead, PFAS, E. coli, Imazalil plus other toxins and pathogens. Tampons, menstrual pads and even some sunscreens contain gender bending endocrine disruptors. Phthalate-laden bottled water alone makes up 1.5 million tons of plastic each year.

    So now, plastic is killing cattle, contaminating beef, milk and cheese then peddled to consumers then fed to school kids? How conservative.

  32. Donald Pay 2023-12-01

    Mike Z. says: “Parents who cannot feed their children, should not have been having chilren.” (sic) Are you supporting abortion now?

  33. e platypus onion 2023-12-01

    If offended anyone, So what, be offended. It is a free country.

    Zit the Hypocrite just admitted school lunches should be free. And, like a true magat scumacyst, blamed young victims of rape and incest for getting raped and incested and preggers because he, like all other magats, are flaming hypocrites.

  34. Eve Fisher 2023-12-01

    Yes, Mr. Zitterich, we do indeed blame men for rape and incest, and we often prosecute them as well. There are many rapists sitting in the South Dakota State Penitentiary right now, and thank God they’re there.
    Oh, and you might check your figures: inflation was at 40%, but is going down dramatically, but corporate profits are at 70%. Greed, sheer greed.

    To my fellow fans of Cory, isn’t it amazing how much Mr. Z sounds like Tom Pischke, Tony Randolph et al? Men are such pure beings, and if women would only remain pure virgins until marriage, and then make sure they and the children have no needs (especially financial), all would be well, and we’d all be back in the Garden of Eden. Tell that to Elizabeth Smart.

  35. O 2023-12-01

    Why is the assumption that parents should pay the costs of feeding their children during free public school? That is a provincial, archaic, wrong-headed assumption that ought to be questioned. Schools are responsible for providing for children’s health and safety needs during the school day (when they act in local parentis), so why did greedy, right-wing, hypocrites make the assumption that lunches (and breakfasts) are not under that umbrella of services?

    As a society, we have to reject that food, housing, healthcare, even basic income need to be “earned” and are not basic human rights to be guaranteed with a strong social safety net. Using those basic needs to blackmail a workforce into compliance to the owner-class is an outdated philosophy that must be rejected and deconstructed at each turn. The threat, much less the reality of keeping kids hungry in school, having families living on the streets, or forcing the sick to go without treatment twists the arms to keep a workforce exploited.

    This nation enjoys an embarrassment of riches — an embarrassment because it is concentrated on so few — a few that hold that concentration not because of merit, but because of a rigged tax and corporate regulation system.

  36. Eve Fisher 2023-12-01

    O, you are 100% correct.

  37. bearcreekbat 2023-12-01

    O, like Eve, I agree with the idea that ” food, housing, healthcare, even basic income” should be treated as human rights guaranteed to all by any civilized society, rather than something that must be paid for individually to avoid homelessness and starvation. The idea that society is organized exists to protect all people from an enemy seems basic and it is hard to imagine any enemy worse than lack of basic food and shelter.

    I also agree that the our society could easily support that obligation with a fair taxation system, but the current system that protects the hoarding of unneeded, even obscene, wealth is an impediment.

    I do wonder, however, about the basis for questioning the “corporate” regulation system, rather than the regulation system for all businesses and individuals, regardless of form (e.g. including and regulating partnerships, associations, LLCs, enterprises, divisions, sole proprietorships, et al). The key attractiveness to investors of the corporate business form is the protection of individual investors from personal liability for corporate debts and obligations. Is that shield from personal liability for investors, i.e. the folks that own stock in the corporation (i.e. investors), what you find objectionable? Should anyone owning stock in a corporation, for example General Motors, be personally liable if GM makes an unsafe vehicle that causes damages exceeding GM actual corporate assets?

  38. e platypus onion 2023-12-01

    First female magat scotus justice. Sandra Day O’Connor passed away. My only memory of her was her willingness to hang on to the last minute of election 2000 to make sure she got to vote to enshrine dumbass dubya and preserve her seat for another magat justice.

  39. O 2023-12-01

    bearcreekbat, excellent question. There was a time in this country’s history that to receive the OK to become a corporation (and receive all the benefits you list), the entity had to prove it would contribute to the public good; if the public (ie government) was going to protect the corporation from all those downsides, then the corporation would have to provide some real upside to the public for its existence. In you final example, I’m OK with GM stockholders having shielding from personal liability IF — and only IF — they also do more than serve as an entity to enrich only those stockholders. As a condition for its very existence, GM should be required to provide good jobs at a good salary to energize the community in which it serves. It should be required to help the infrastructure of its community. Making corporations only shells to enrich individuals, wealthy individuals, is the wrong path our regulatory history has taken. It has even been taken to the extreme that ONLY profiting shareholders can be the ONLY corporate mandate. That is what I object to. Corporations should shoulder a burden/responsibility good citizenship in exchange for their protections.

  40. O 2023-12-01

    I also object to corporate “personhood,” but that’s another rant for another time.

  41. Mike Zitterich 2023-12-01

    You listen here, Ms. Eve Fisher,

    As a Christian, and a God Promoting, Moral person, I have never treated anyone wrong, let alone bad. And I have never taken advantage of any woman in my life. There are good and bad people in this world and we should always hold the bad ones accountable for their actions. But to accuse me of someone who did some terrible act against another person is very rude of you, and arrogant.

    I never spoke on rape and incest – and I do not condone the actions of such. I am thankful I grew up in a very religious, moral upstanding family. One grounded in the principles of the Lutheran Faith.

    I wil always preach being responsibility, and being an upstandind person. IF i could wait until marriage to have sex, and to have kids, so can you, and those around us. I was not going around having sex with every Mary, Sarah, or Sue. And I surely was not forcing a woman to have sex.

    You sound like a negative, unattractive woman, bent out of shape cause she was dealth a bad blow in her past. GET OVER IT, move along, and enjoy life. We only get one life, and it goes by way to fast.

    IF you do not want to get pregnant, dont have sex, and if you want to foster better relationships, hang out with GOOD PEOPLE, not the first hippy that shows you a bit of attention. YES, be responsible for your actions, it is NOT always the mans fault. BUT women like you seem to blame all men.

    If I offended you, so what, I would never befriend a person like you, your a nasty ugly person.

  42. e platypus onion 2023-12-01

    IF you do not want to get pregnant, dont have sex, Do,you believe this arrogant moronic tool? Apparently he believes rape and incest either do not exist or you can’t get pregnant either way. I have yet to meet a rape or incest survivor who was not raped or incested by saying no. If I was an advisor to Zit I would tell him to shut it or tape his slavering jaws shut myself.

  43. All Mammal 2023-12-01

    Mr. Zitterich- your mom just called and wants you to shave her back now, so you should get going.

  44. M 2023-12-01

    Keep your sex life and anti-Christian views away from the hungry kids that go to public school. Be glad they are there and treat them like they are welcome. Feed them like a guest in your home because that school is their safety zone and yes a home to some. Anyone who denies food to the hungry/poor deserves to lose a few meals themselves. I doubt Grudz and Zit have ever been without food and am quite sure you should. You are definitely deplorables.

  45. M 2023-12-01

    Another thing, public schools do not belong just to you, they belong to everyone in the community. Happy communities and happy families share food and bond together because of it. I don’t know what kind of culture you two deplorables are from, but I feel sad for you. I would never want to be in a bunker with you where food rations are distributed by how much money you have or the how loud you can bellow. No matter what, you’d find a way to horde it and exclude women and children.

  46. bearcreekbat 2023-12-01

    Thanks for your comments O. The only government benefit of the corporate structure that I understand is the limited personal liability for investors. Other than the limited personal liability I don’t seem to understand any meaningful difference in the government’s treatment of a corporation as a separate legal entity, than the treatment of a partnership, association, trust, etc., as separate legal entities. Aren’t all for-profit business organizations are taxed, and are allowed deductions from income based on the expenses in generating that income? And aren’t none of for-profit business organization tasked by government with any legal obligation to benefit the public good? Nor is any business structure required to pay a fair wage to employees, other than what is required of all businesses including corporations under minimum wage laws?

    What sort of government protections do you identify that are granted only to corporations, but not to other non-corporation types of business organizations? What am I missing here?

  47. jakc 2023-12-02

    Mike Z

    Let’s be clear about biology. If a woman doesn’t have sex, then 9 months later, no baby because the egg and sperm that would have been that baby died. Same result as if a woman had an abortion. If you think abortion is murder, then so is telling a woman not to have sex.

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