School district backtracks on decision to serve jelly sandwiches to students with lunch debt after massive backlash
A Rhode Island school district had to change its policy of providing only butter and jelly sandwiches to students who were in debt on their school-lunch accounts following a backlash.
Warwick Public Schools came in for criticism after it announced that students who owed money on paid, free or reduced lunch accounts would be served cold sandwiches rather than a hot meal all the while until their balance had been cleared.
But later the school district that serves children from pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade shared that a school subcommittee was of the opinion that students should get the lunch of their choice regardless of their account balance.
Chairwoman Karen Bachus explained that under the current policy, students would have been given the sandwich (which is also on the regular school lunch menu), vegetables, fruits, and milk.
Bachus took to Facebook to share, "With this Policy, we seek to find a balance between being fiscally responsible and ensuring that all our students are provided with a healthy, nutritious lunch."
Earlier, the school district had faced a lot of criticism after their Facebook post revealed that students who owed money on paid, free or reduced lunch accounts would be served cold sandwiches all the while until their balance had been cleared.
The post sparked outrage amongst parents who left a whole host of comments on the post, criticizing the decision.
Many of the students' parents said that such a decision only punishes the children who are struggling financially or that the amounts that they owe are trivial.
One angry parent shared, "My kids pay for lunch, and I have received notices for owing $0.10, $0.25 in the past. It’s really a bad idea to take it out on the kids ... They are kids. They do not pay their bills."
According to state law, all public schools in Rhode Island have to provide lunches to students and 69% of those lunches served are free or given at a much-reduced price. Bachus added that debt is formed when students select a la carte options like pizza, fries, and snacks and that parents are notified around twice about the lunch debt before a student's a la carte option is denied.
The district also revealed that it owed $77,000 from school lunch debt and around 1,653 students have an outstanding debt.
Local restaurant owner Angelica Penta, she had offered to pay the school a donation for lunches but the officials refused to accept it.
Penta took to Facebook to share, "I have met with Warwick twice and the second time I left in tears after they refused to take a $4,000 check."
"There is no need for any child to be denied a hot lunch. We never know a child's or their families situation, everyone struggles at some point," she added.
The district released a statement saying, "The School Department's recommendation to the business owner is that they create a program to decide which students would be eligible to have their account reduced or expunged by the donations the business owner had available. Applications could then be reviewed by the business owner and donations could be made to accounts selected by the business owner."
"The business owner has maintained a position that they want to make a single, large donation to the district while leaving the student selection process to the school department," the statement continued.