A school district has garnered the ire of parents after it announced that children with an outstanding school lunch debt will only be served a cold peanut butter and jelly sandwich until the debt is paid. The school claimed the decision was based on the astounding $40,000 debt that the parents refuse to pay.
Warwick Public Schools, which is located in Rhode Island, explained that they simply cannot absorb this debt. The lunch debt policy change will take effect on May 13th. Rhode Island is required by state law to provide students with some form of lunch, but it doesn’t specify if the food must be hot or cold, NBC News reported.
Many parents on social media have expressed their dismay with the district’s decision, with many citing this will only increase bullying and classism.
The school district announced the controversial change in a Facebook post. “If money is owed on a paid, free, or reduced lunch account a sun butter and jelly sandwich will be given as the lunch choice until the balance owed is paid in full or a payment plan is set up.”
In response, many parents responded, with one writing: “What a horrible policy. You’re basically telling people who can’t pay that their kids don’t deserve to eat hot food. Not to mention now all the kids with hot lunch will know the other kids families can’t pay their bills. Way to single kids out!”
Other parents echoed similar sentiments. “This is absolutely awful. Our schools shouldn’t be in the business of shaming children,” another person wrote. “Just give the kids lunch. … we cant spring for a chicken patty for a hungry kid? What if this is their only meal of the day?”
A local restaurant heard of the district’s conundrum and raised $4000 so students could have a hot meal, according to the Daily Mail.
When the owners of the restaurant tried to contribute the money to the students, they were denied twice by the school district. Since the restaurant can’t pay off all the debt, only some students would be able to benefit from the donation. The school district indicated that this would be unfair as all children must be treated equally, and they cannot give better lunches to only certain students, which is ironic, to say the least.
Many of the issues come from parents who have children on free or reduced lunch who were unaware that items such as milk were extra. They also argue that they were unaware that their children could choose extra items and run a tab at the school.