Owe lunch money to Warwick Public Schools? Then you'll be eating cold sun butter and jelly sandwiches every day until it's paid up, rather than getting a hot meal, the Rhode Island school district announced over the weekend. Kids will also be allowed to go back to hot meals if a payment plan is set up with the food service office. Per the AP, the district is owed more than $40,000 in lunch debt; ABC News reports that the schools used to give kids a hot lunch even if they had outstanding payments, but says it can no longer afford to do so. The new policy, which took effect Monday, has gotten mixed reactions, with some parents saying children will be embarrassed when the sandwiches they're served single them out and make it obvious their family owes money. A GoFundMe campaign to pay off all the debt has so far raised more than $13,000.
"It's the parents that owe the bill. Is starving the children the way it should be handled?" reads one sample comment on the district's Facebook post announcing the policy change. But a sample comment on the other side notes, "Does your credit card provider send you bills if you owe .10? Of course they do. Why should schools be any different?" Some parents called it "odd" that the policy also applies to students on a free or reduced lunch program. A local restaurant owner tells WPRI she tried to give the district a $4,000 donation toward the lunch debt, but the district wouldn't take it. In a statement, the district says it is "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," and suggested the donor herself decide which debts to pay off specifically. (Philando Castile's mom helped Minnesota students whose lunch debt threatened their graduation.)