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Thread: No free (hot) lunch..........

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    Miss B Hav'n's Avatar
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    #1

    No free (hot) lunch..........

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    ETA - THIS is NOT about doing away with the free/reduced lunch program - this policy is for those parents who DO NOT pay the bill for their child's school lunch.........................
    No free lunch: Schools get tough on deadbeats
    Some start 'cheese sandwich policy' for kids whose parents don't pay
    The Associated Press
    updated 11:33 a.m. ET, Wed., Feb. 25, 2009
    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A cold cheese sandwich, fruit and a milk carton might not seem like much of a meal — but that's what's on the menu for students in New Mexico's largest school district without their lunch money.

    Faced with mounting unpaid lunch charges in the economic downturn, Albuquerque Public Schools last month instituted a "cheese sandwich policy," serving the alternative meals to children whose parents fail to pick up their lunch tab.

    Such policies have become a necessity for schools seeking to keep budgets in the black while ensuring children don't go hungry. School districts including those in Chula Vista, Calif., Hillsborough County, Fla., and Lynnwood, Wash., have also taken to serving cheese sandwiches to lunch debtors.

    Critics argue the cold meals are a form of punishment for children whose parents can't afford to pay.

    "We've heard stories from moms coming in saying their child was pulled out of the lunch line and given a cheese sandwich," said Nancy Pope, director of the New Mexico Collaborative to End Hunger. "One woman said her daughter never wants to go back to school."

    Mixed reviews
    Some Albuquerque parents have tearfully pleaded with school board members to stop singling out their children because they're poor, while others have flooded talk radio shows thanking the district for imposing a policy that commands parental responsibility.

    Second-grader Danessa Vigil said she will never eat sliced cheese again. She had to eat cheese sandwiches because her mother couldn't afford to give her lunch money while her application for free lunch was being processed.

    "Every time I eat it, it makes me feel like I want to throw up," the 7-year-old said.

    Her mother, Darlene Vigil, said there are days she can't spare lunch money for her two daughters.

    "Some parents don't have even $1 sometimes," the 27-year-old single mother said. "If they do, it's for something else, like milk at home. There are some families that just don't have it and that's the reason they're not paying."

    The School Nutrition Association recently surveyed nutrition directors from 38 states and found more than half of school districts have seen an increase in the number of students charging meals, while 79 percent saw an increase in the number of free lunches served over the last year.

    'Families struggling'
    In New Mexico, nearly 204,000 low-income students — about three-fifths of public school students — received free or reduced-price lunches at the beginning of the school year, according to the state Public Education Department.

    "What you are seeing is families struggling and having a really hard time, and school districts are struggling as well," said Crystal FitzSimons of the national Food Research and Action Center.

    In Albuquerque, unpaid lunch charges hovered around $55,000 in 2006. That jumped to $130,000 at the end of the 2007-08 school year. It was $140,000 through the first five months of this school year.

    Charges were on pace to reach $300,000 by the end of the year. Mary Swift, director of Albuquerque's food and nutrition services, said her department had no way to absorb that debt as it had in the past.

    "We can't use any federal lunch program money to pay what they call bad debt. It has to come out of the general budget and of course that takes it from some other department," Swift said.


    'Dignity and respect'
    With the new policy, the school district has collected just over $50,000 from parents since the beginning of the year. It also identified 2,000 students eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches, and more children in the lunch program means more federal dollars for the district.

    School officials said the policy was under consideration for some time and parents were notified last fall. Families with unpaid charges are reminded with an automated phone call each night and notes are sent home with children once a week.

    Swift added that the cheese sandwiches — about 80 of the 46,000 meals the district serves daily — can be considered a "courtesy meal," rather than an alternate meal.

    Some districts, she noted, don't allow children without money to eat anything.

    Albuquerque Public Schools "has historically gone above and beyond as far as treating children with dignity and respect and trying to do what's best with for the child and I think this is just another example," Swift said.
    Thoughts? Opinions?
    Last edited by Miss B Hav'n; 02-25-2009 at 01:05 PM.
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    GlitterCrotch's Avatar
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    #2
    That's disgusting.
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    #3
    I think its crap. Growing up, we were extrememly poor and if it werent for free lunches, I would have gone hungry. And a cheese sandwich, really?
    And pulling that little girl out of line just pisses me off. Its embarrassing enough when you know you are one of the poor kids at school but to have it called attention to like that is ridiculous.
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    #4
    To be clear: I don't think the fact that they're serving a cheese sandwich is terrible, I think that taking the parent's financial decisions out on the children by singling them out for a different meal than everyone else is having is disgusting. They should still get the same lunch, just the parent's bill should go up.
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    #5
    For some kids, those free school lunches are the ONLY food they get at all. Breaks me heart.
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    #6
    I think it's wrong to pull a child out and make a spectacle out of them.

    As far as the lunch thing goes. .. I don't know if it's such a bad thing. Here you can apply to receive free or reduced lunch. Reduced lunch here costs 40 cents.

    2 of my kids buy lunch and one brings (because he is an exremely picky eater). If my kids forgot their lunch money or their lunch, I would be greatful that the school provided a cheese sandwhich, a piece of fruit, and some milk. Honestly that is enough food...little kids don't eat all that much. I can understand why it's a cheese sandwhich because of so many kids having peanut allergies, so I'm sure that's why it's not a pb&j instead.

    If the kids don't like the cheese...then they can just eat the bread, the fruit, & drink the milk.

    I would honestly be ok with that.....if they were still hungry when they got home they could have a snack.
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    #7
    It's disgusting to punish a child because their parents cannot afford to give money for lunches. I think it's sad that they cannot even provide free lunches without involving some kind of drama. And cheese sandwich does not meet the standard of nutrition that a child needs.
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    #8
    Hmmm, I have to say I agree with the policy. That is what the policy was at the DODEA school my boys went to in Guam. It's all about parent responsibility. It is the PARENT's responsibility to ensure their kids have food, not the school. If you can't afford the school lunches, PACK. Send them with pb & J or something.

    Lunch prices in Guam were OUTRAGEOUS. $3.25/day for elementary!!! There is no way we wanted to pay $6.50/day for our two boys to eat hot lunches at school, so we always packed.

    Now, it does sound as if that school needed to be more tactful about it.

    Just my 2 cents.
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    #9
    Quote Originally Posted by sharine25 View Post
    It's disgusting to punish a child because their parents cannot afford to give money for lunches. I think it's sad that they cannot even provide free lunches without involving some kind of drama. And cheese sandwich does not meet the standard of nutrition that a child needs.
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    #10
    I think if parents are refusing to pay, especially if it's a continual thing, the kids shouldn't be eating free, but I feel bad for the kids.
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