A Rhode Island school district has changed the meal given to students who owe lunch money, and some parents believe it unfairly singles out and embarrasses students, according to NBC News.
Warwick Public Schools will begin offering a sunflower butter and jelly sandwich, the vegetable of the day, fruit and milk to students with lunch debts.
“This is absolutely awful. Our schools shouldn’t be in the business of shaming children,” wrote a commenter on the district’s Facebook post about the new policy.
Why the change?
Warwick Public Schools is dealing with a significant, and growing, amount of unpaid lunch money. According to Warwick School Committee chairwoman Karen Bachus, the district is owed about $78,000 from more than 1,600 students.
“We have sent out letters and certified letters to every family,” Bachus said. “All they have to do is contact us to try to work it out.”
What was the policy before?
Some would consider this an improvement, despite the criticism. Before, students who owed money were offered an off-menu cheese sandwich, instead of the sunflower butter and jelly option that is a regular menu item.
“Before we used to give a cheese sandwich which did single them out, but now we’ve gone with an on-the-menu meal,” she said. “So what’s wrong with that?”
What is being done about this?
Some members of the community have chipped in to help pay off some of these students’ lunch money debts. Local restaurant owner Angelica Penta raised more than $4,000 with a donation jar, and offered it to the school district. The district refused.
“Each time these offers were made, Warwick Public Schools stated that the school department was not in the position to single out or identify specific students that should be selected for a reduction in their lunch debt while excluding others,” a Warwick School District statement read.