School lunch shaming

Oct 30, 2019 | Education, fight against evil, Society

Why is this evil?

A school district penalizing school children in their fiscal struggles over unpaid school lunch bills.

Editor’s Viewpoint:

A Rhode Island school has decided to fix their growing school lunch debt issue with a disturbing solution. This is the statement made available to parents via the school’s Facebook page.

“In accordance with Warwick School Committee Policy EFB; Effective Monday, May 13, 2019, if money is owed on a paid, free, or reduced lunch [student] 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 through the food service office. Please contact the Food Service office via email – [email protected] to take care of this pressing matter.”

Here are some of the reactions the School Committee received from their Facebook post.

“This is shameful. Clearly these students can’t afford lunch for reasons. To broadcast these students by only giving them sunbutter and jelly sandwiches and open them up to ridicule shows the absolute lack of moral character among your School Committee. Perhaps a better investment on your time would be determining the root causes leading to people in this community not being able to pay for school lunches.”

Angel Gabrielle – “ My daughter still talks about how awful she felt when the lunch lady told kids they couldn’t have regular lunches because they didn’t have money. That’s not an isolated policy…just another sign that in general we lack compassion even for the defenseless ??”

Brian Lew – “The fact that you turned away public donations and told the donor to develop an equitable allocation is telling – that’s your responsibility! It indicates loud and clear that you’re not interested in the best interests of the children you’re supposed to serve. Any public entity should have the capacity to set up an equitable allocation formula based on financial need; it’s not that hard. Please do better for your community.”

Young school kids eating lunch talking at a table together

Young school kids eating lunch talking aLisa Tanguay – “BUTTER & JELLY. My daughters never attended public schools in Warwick. I pay my taxes. Please take my money that my daughters didn’t use & give these children some real food.” Thank you. A PISSED OFF WARWICK TAXPAYER

Tamara Janelle – “ Congratulations, this is the first step to starting a concentration camp. Now you just need the fence and you will be there!”

“It’s the parents that owe the bill. Is starving the children the way it should be handled? Absolutely not. My child’s school gives free lunches to everyone no matter their income. Maybe you should come up with brighter plans for a brighter future.”

The school’s Facebook page received more than 1,000 comments, most expressing outrage at this new policies. Publicly burdening students with unpaid lunch debts that they had no control over is crazy.

The new rule would have required any student who owed money to Warwick public schools to forego other hot meal or a la carte options and instead have the cold sandwich until the money was repaid or a payment plan established.

Lunch boxes and school supplies on black

For the simple fact that they could not see how horrible an idea this was is mindblowing to many people. Punishing a child because he’s poor is reprehensible. More importantly, you can’t figure out a way to feed these children in your budget is just plain wrong.

Due to the immediate pressure of the community, the district walked back their policy. The school policy subcommittee now “recommends” that the Warwick school committee allow students their choice of lunch regardless of their account status.

The primary challenge for schools is how school lunch subsidies are designed in the first place. 

The federal subsidies program is designed so that low-income families can receive financial assistance for school lunches.

The average price of a middle school lunch is $2.68, the cost can add up for families, especially those who have several children. Kids from low-income families can receive assistance, though not all families apply and then some are deemed ineligible for assistance.

Students from families whose incomes are at or below 130% of the poverty level qualify for free school meals. Children whose family incomes are between 130% and 185% of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals.

For the 2018-19 school year, 130% of the poverty level was $32,630 for a family of four, according to School Nutrition Association (SNA).

As insensitive as the Rhode Island school program appeared to be, there are good organizations out there that are trying to solve the issue of school lunch and childhood hunger.

Many students with low income families depend on free school meals during the week. But during the weekends, children continue to struggle with hunger. However, all is not lost.  Many food banks have started Backpack Programs to help solve this problem. The idea is simple. At the end of the week qualifying students can get a bag filled with nutritious, easy to prepare food to take home with them for the weekend. 

Feeding America currently provides weekend meals for over 450,000 children. Blessings in a Backpack has a similar program.

Another new and innovative solution to childhood hunger is happening in El Paso, Texas.  Students can now eat dinner for free at select schools. This makes it possible for many students to receive healthy meals throughout the day.

Another innovative program is the USDA’s Farm to School Program. This initiative works to provide schools with food from local farmers. This teaches children about how to eat healthy as well as how agricultural cycles work. It also encourages participation in a school garden.

Hunger in America is real and many of our children are subject to multiple food insecurity situations including those like that in the Rhode Island school system.

As a nation, we have an inherent responsibility to make sure that all children have their nurturing needs met and supported as they continue to grow and become engaged citizens of our democracy.  

Now and in the future, let’s try to do a better job.


Do not… meaning your should not engage, deal with, or work for.


Compromise is the act of surrendering core values or beliefs in order to achieve a perceived solution.


We define evil as a deliberate harmful action.

Evil is not an opposing viewpoint or ideology.

Evil is not an individual person, organization, business, or government entity.

However, evil is the premeditated, harmful action done by an individual person, organization, business, or government entity.

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