POCATELLO, Idaho -

Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 is changing its policy when it comes to school lunches. Students now have a cap on how much debt they can incur on their lunch accounts.

The school district said it has good reasons for the cap. In fact, 17,000 reasons – as in $17,000 of debt owed for school lunches at the end of this past school year alone.

The school district said while many may be concerned students won't eat after they reach the cap, the school district said it's not going to allow that to happen.

"We haven't determined what exactly we're going to do at this time,” said Shelley Allen, spokesperson for the district, “but we never want to get to the point of making kids go without."

The school district had a cap a few years ago, but lifted it.

"What we found after the cap was lifted is that then our charges accelerated," Allen said.

The district had three options. First, they could allow the situation to continue and simply take money out of the general fund to pay the debt, but Allen said that also takes away money from educational expenses. Second, they could eliminate the option of charging altogether, something Allen said would be very difficult. The district went with the third option, to put a limit to the charges.

The new cap is set at $11. Each student will begin the year with a zero balance owed, even if their account has a past due balance.

"That would be about a week's worth of lunches,” Allen explained. “That would give parents a week to respond to put more money in the account, come down and pay off their balance or whatever they needed to do."

Allen said they will continue to work with families to pay off the debt incurred by the students, but she said it's also very important to pay it off while you can. The debt stays with the student throughout all their schooling. If the amount isn't paid by the time graduation from high school rolls around, the student won't receive their diploma until it's paid.

Allen said there are also many ways to help if this news is something that stresses families out. She said she can't stress enough the importance of finding out if you qualify for the free and reduced lunch program.

She also said not to worry about stigma attached to it. A large amount of students are on the program, and there's no way to distinguish which students are and are not.

She recommends filling out the free and reduced lunch forms at your child's school or you can go to the school district offices on 3115 Pole Line Road in Pocatello.