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Local Business to Help Pay Off Unpaid Lunch Balances as Need Expands

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March 2020, the U.S. Department of Agriculture granted waivers that allowed all students to receive free school lunches – regardless if they had submitted the free and reduced lunch application.

That all changed this past summer. 

On June 30, 2022, those waivers expired and were not renewed by the federal government, meaning the universal free lunch program was over. Because of this, parents are now required once again to complete the free and reduced lunch application in order for their child to receive meal benefits. 

“If families feel they would qualify for meal benefits, they can apply online at or they can stop by the Denton ISD child nutrition office,” said Denton ISD Director of Child Nutrition Liz Raftery. “It is a requirement to complete this application annually. Forty-eight percent of our current student population receives free and reduced lunch.”

As the return to pre-pandemic school lunches continues, Denton ISD – along with many other districts – has seen a sharp increase in unpaid lunch balances. 

Halfway through the 2022-2023 school year, Denton ISD has incurred over $100,000 in unpaid lunch balances. Of that $100,000 in unpaid lunch balances, $60,000 comes from the elementary level, while $40,000 comes from the secondary level. USDA policy prohibits using child nutrition funds to write off this balance, and at the end of the year, the district’s general fund would be responsible for balancing any unpaid amount. 

And, while unpaid lunch balances may be on the rise, there is at least one local Denton business lending a helping hand. 

As part of the “Share the Love” campaign many downtown businesses participate in throughout the month of February, Amber Briggle has decided her business will be donating to help pay off the unpaid balances at Newton Rayzor Elementary. Mrs. Briggle’s company, Soma Massage Therapy, will match every dollar up to $1,500 that her customers donate. 

“I’ve always been a big proponent and supporter of our public schools,” Mrs. Briggle said. “Growing up, I was one of those kids who was on free and reduced lunch. There were some times in my life when that was the biggest, healthiest meal of my day. You can’t think on an empty stomach. I just want to make sure these kids are supported.” 

Denton ISD Executive Director of Child Nutrition, Risk Management and Benefits Chris Bomberger said Mrs. Briggle’s donation is incredibly helpful as the district continues to try and curb the growing amount of unpaid balances. For those interested in contributing to this cause like Mrs. Briggle, they can contact the Denton ISD child nutrition office at 940-369-0270. 

“We value the community participation in assisting families in need,” Mr. Bomberger said. “This gesture is greatly appreciated knowing it impacts one of many campuses in need.”

Denton ISD parents can use the School Cafe app to pay their child’s lunch balances. They can also pay with cash or check.