Vista, CA | February 2018 — Two individuals in the Vista Unified community have recently donated close to $600 to help clear outstanding meal accounts for students at three Vista Unified Schools: Beaumont, Maryland and Olive elementary schools.
One donation arrived just before the winter holiday, while the other occurred at the end of January. Both are no doubt meaningful gifts to the families impacted.
The first gift, by an anonymous individual in Vista, helped clear outstanding meal accounts for 67 students at the three Vista Unified schools.
The donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, had heard of similar generosity in other parts of the country and decided that she wanted to do something similar. “It was my pleasure to give a gift that will have an impact on our students,” said the donor. “I read about the idea on social media and I thought, ‘what a great idea!”
The second gift was made by Beaumont Elementary school aide, Isabel Xochihua, on her last day of work before taking time off due to a recurring cancer battle. Xochihua explained that she wanted to do something to help children whose families may be having a difficult time getting caught up. She is described by her coworkers as having “a heart of gold.”
“Imagine our surprise when we had a donor offer to pay the negative balances for our students,” says Maryland Elementary Principal Carol McKane. “What a wonderful way to support the students at Maryland and make an impact in their lives. We don’t always think about the things that may be affecting families, such as a negative food balance. To know that this is off their plate is a relief for them.”
While Vista Unified serves more than 13,000 students as part of the national Free & Reduced Price Meals program, there are children whose families encounter financial difficulties and fall behind in their payment for school meals. These delinquent accounts have added up to an annual shortfall of close to $15,000 that the district is required to pay out of its general fund.
“Any time a student’s account becomes delinquent we attempt to contact their family,” says VUSD Director of Child Nutrition Services Jamie Phillips. “We realize that people sometimes aren’t aware of their account’s status, and sometimes families just need to know that they have options. We will work with any family to design a plan to help them get caught up. It’s our goal to find solutions and work together with the families we serve, and we want families to know that we are here to help.”
Phillips adds that students whose accounts are delinquent are never singled out or identified in any way, and that communication happens between the school district and parents / families.
Olive Elementary Principal Stephanie Vasquez adds, “It’s truly a generous gift. Being able to share with a family the good news that a lingering debt has been paid sends a positive message that their child’s success matters. It’s what living in a thoughtful and caring community is all about.”
“School meals continue to be a vital component of ensuring the nutritional health of our children,“ says VUSD’s Amy Haessly, a Registered Dietitian and the district’s Nutrition Education & Training Supervisor. “And with the work of our Farm To School program to source more and more local foods, we also see that schools are places that offer equal access to fresh, even organic, fruits and vegetables and nutrient-dense foods.”
All parties agree that the donors exemplify the generous spirit of the Vista Unified community and its expression by the district: WAVE, meaning We Are Vista Every Day.
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