School District Reverses Policy Of Giving Cold Sandwiches To Lunch Money-Owing Kids
This week, one Rhode Island school district sparked a major debate on who should pay for school lunch. Warwick Public Schools made a Facebook announcement saying if students owed money on a paid, free or reduced lunch account, they would be given a “sun butter and jelly sandwich” every day until the balance is paid in full or a payment plan is arranged through the food service office. Their announcement received hundreds of angry comments from parents and advocates who criticized the new policy.
Now, it seems the school district has reversed their decision and the yogurt company Chaobani has stepped in to pay off the lunch debt of students, according to ABC News.
“No child should be facing anything like this,” Chobani CEO and founder Hamdi Ulukaya said on Twitter. “I know it breaks out heart, it breaks many people’s hearts, and we need to step up. We’ll take care of this school’s bill because everybody at Chobani was heartbroken, and they’re going to do something about it. But this is just a small move. We need everywhere, everywhere around the country, to eliminate this for all — forever.”
The Rhode Island school district is currently $77,000 in lunch debt, which Chobani is offering to pay off.
The district agreed to backtrack on their cold sandwich decision after review at a committee meeting on Wednesday. Now the district will continue to allow students their options of school lunch regardless of their account status. They also outlined the moves taken to notify parents about the outstanding balances:
“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,” a statement from the school explained. “With respect to donations, we are grateful for any financial support that has been offered. We are working with our attorneys to ensure that we accept donations in compliance with the law and that the donations are applied in an equitable manner.”
One local restaurant owner twice offered to donate $4,000 to help pay off the debt , but they were turned down both times. School officials explained in a statement that all students must be treated equally and they recommended the donor take applications to determine who to donate the money to instead. Now it seems the school will be a little more open to people’s generous funds.
There is currently pending state legislation that would make free hot lunches available to all students, no matter family income.