As DeSoto County School District (DCS) students head into the Christmas break, they leave school on Friday knowing that when they come back in January, they won’t have to bring any extra money with them to cover lunches they haven’t paid for.
Monday afternoon, Dec. 16, Landers Auto Group Mississippi Operations CEO Jeff Field and Vice President/General Manager of Landers Buick/GMC in Southaven Randy Paton presented DCS Supt. Cory Uselton with a check. The funds will cover the outstanding balances of all negative lunch accounts in the district.
The check in the amount of $13,915 means all DCS students will start the new year with at least a zero balance on their accounts.
Field said the donation from Landers Auto Group is their way of showing their gratefulness for the support they’ve received for their business.
“They’ve done so much for us and our business, so we wanted to give back,” Field said. “We had a meeting with Cory and decided that’s the best way to give back to affect the most number of people in DeSoto County, to pay off delinquent school lunch debt. That’s just giving back to the community that’s helped Randy and me and our endeavors.”
Uselton said the idea was initially presented to him about a month ago.
“They first came to us in early November and just like any other process it takes a few weeks to complete everything,” Uselton said. “It received school board approval at our December school board meeting.”
School meal prices are for full pay $1.25 for breakfast and $2.75 for lunches. Reduced meal prices are 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch for students.
District policy allows students to charge up to a maximum dollar equivalent of five reimbursable lunch meals and five reimbursable breakfast meals where available.
However, once that amount is reached, students may not charge any more meals or food items until the account is in good standing. Cash brought to school must first be applied to the outstanding balance until it reaches a zero or positive level.
Monday’s donation will mean every outstanding account becomes a zero account when youngsters return to school in early January.
“I worked with our child nutrition department and asked them what the outstanding balance was,” Uselton said of the total. “It is a total amount and they (Landers) paid for the outstanding balance for the district.”
Field said the money comes directly from the group of dealerships.
It’s just a donation from us to say thank you for everything the community’s done for us and this is our way of giving back at this time of year,” Field said, with Paton adding, “It was a great and excellent way for us coming together with the school system to give back because of what they give us. We’re very appreciative of what the county has done for us.”
Field said the auto group wanted to do something that would impact the most number of people in DeSoto County.
“We were so appreciative of this generous donation and realize that it’ll help a lot of our families out, especially during this holiday season, and in turn, it will help our students,” Uselton pointed out.
The Child Nutrition Department of DeSoto County Schools actively works to provides a healthy menu for the more than 34,000 students in Mississippi’s largest school district.
Now, youngsters and their parents will have one less item than to be concerned about in January, that being bringing extra money to get a meal at lunchtime.
Or as Paton said, “Zero account balance, Merry Christmas!”
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.