Rhode Island School District Accused of Punishing Children with Cold Sandwiches for Outstanding Lunch Debts

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Each of us have fond memories of gossiping with our homegirls or talking hoops with our homeboys over whatever delicious feasts our school cafeterias served up that day. As a teenager, Taco Salad Day was all the fuel I needed for those infamous rap battles in the school courtyard, and you’re a liar if you never sprinted to the front of the line when you realized that your favorite lunch lady saved you the biggest slice of her bland ass pizza.

On a scale of 1 to fucked up, the Rhode Island school district appears to be hell bent on depriving its current crop of students of these precious memories—all for shortcomings completely out of their control.

NBC News reports that Warwick Public Schools has $40,000 in outstanding lunch payments, a steep cost it cannot afford to absorb. So in order to either offset its losses, force parents to pay up or just look like assholes, students with outstanding debts will be offered a single option for lunch: a complimentary sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwich.

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And as you can expect, this district-wide policy that will go into effect on May 13 has been met with scorn and outrage.

“I just don’t think it’s fair to hold the kids responsible,” Heather Vale told WLNE. She has two children attending a middle school in the district. “I think it’s embarrassing to the kids because now everyone’s going to know why these children are receiving the lunch that they are.”

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“Life gets in the way sometimes,” Julie Roberts, a parent to a 13-year-old Warwick Vets student, said. “And to penalize kids for you know one, two dollars to me is crazy.”

A local restaurant, Gel’s Kitchen, offered a $4,000 donation to the district to erase a sizable chunk of its outstanding lunch debt, but officials declined the offer on the grounds that students must be treated equally.

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“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,” the district explained in a statement.

On Sunday, the owners of Gel’s Kitchen took to Facebook to voice their frustration at the district’s decision.

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“There is no need for any child to be denied a hot lunch,” the owners wrote. “We never know a child’s or their families [sic] situation, everyone struggles at some point.”

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The district’s announcement comes as “lunch shaming” has become more prominent. The Washington Post notes that throughout the country, there have been incidents in which students have been branded with stamps, humiliated with cheese sandwiches, or had their lunches thrown away after employees discovered that they had outstanding debt.

But while Gel’s Kitchen’s efforts to reduce the debt were shot down, another solution has been presented: a GoFundMe campaign. Since its debut on Tuesday, the campaign has raised over $3,000 toward its $77,000 goal.

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“If we can raise all the money, then they’re not choosing kids,” Angela Penta, one of the owners of Gel’s Kitchen, told the Warwick Post.

And no child deserves a sunflower seed butter sandwich.

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About the author

Jay Connor

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for ya'll to stop putting sugar in grits.