Starting next month, in an effort to reduce a massive $45,859 debt in unpaid lunchtime balance, a Rhode Island school district will send a collection agency after families over the debt.

According to WJAR, parents who owe $20 or more in overdue lunch bills will receive a letter from a collection agency. The debts could possibly impact the credit scores of parents who don’t pay off the balance within 60 days.

The chief operating officer of Cranston Public Schools, Raymond Votto Jr., said:

“The District lunch program cannot continue to lose revenue.

We’re feeding the children. That’s not in dispute. We offer free breakfast.”

Cranston wrote off over $95,000 from Sept. 1, 2016, to June 30, 2018.

A lunchtime meal costs $2.50 per day for elementary students and $3.25 for middle school and high school students. Parents reacting to the news online called the situation “saddening.”

Commenters who responded to the report on Twitter wrote:

This has to be a joke? How can we feed individuals in jail 3 square meals a day for free but we cannot feed our kids in school? WTF there is something seriously wrong with this.

Saddening. PTA couldn’t find some fundraisers to help this along?


That’s my hometown. Awful.

However, one parent said the district’s solution to the sweeping problem hitting many struggling families is tricky.  Lois Clemens, whose grandson attends a Cranston elementary school, told the station:

“Yeah, $45,000 is a lot of money for the school district to not have, but then, on the other hand, I know what it’s like not to have enough money.”

According to CNN, the Rhode Island school lunch debt is indicative of the school lunch crisis impacting 76 percent of America’s public school districts. According to reports, the “horror stories keep coming in.”

From lunch shaming practices around the country to cafeteria workers getting fired for feeding hungry children, districts around the country are trying to find better ways to handle meal-debt.

Watch the video below:

About the author

Tiffani is a writer for Dearly. She is from New York City. Prior to working for Dearly she covered fashion news and managed social media for various digital media outlets.

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15 Replies to “School Is Sending Debt Collectors After Families With Unpaid Lunch Bills. Parents Say ‘This Has to Be a Joke’”

  • David 2 years ago

    Prisoners in jail have NO source of income nor can the bring lunches from home plus I would not want my children eating what a lot of them are fed! A lot of those parents are receiving Government subsidies to feed their children but would rather spend the money on high end cell phones, boozes or drugs! Maybe the school should put a lien on momma’s government check to pay for their children’s lunches! That way the children get the food they need and don’t go hungry!That IS what the money is suppose to be used for.

    • Jessiewing 2 years ago

      Just because a parent may not make the right decisions does not mean a child should go without food. Citizens should go to the schools and payoff what they can.

  • kat 2 years ago

    It’s like any other bill, it needs to be paid. Irresponsible parents are setting a very bad example for their children.

  • Mik 2 years ago

    There is no such think as a “free Lunch”
    I m sure the parents have money for their beer and booze
    Must be a bunch of lieftie free loaders?

  • jake o 2 years ago

    pay your f#cking bills. end of story.

  • Anna Ostby 2 years ago

    Either send a lunch with the kids or send lunch money however sending bill collectors over $20 is a bit ridiculous , what if the collection notice gets lost in the mail (mail does get lost at times) so the collection bill doesn’t get paid that collection agency will tack on fees and interest every day it has a balance and in no time $20 become $100 and on and on ….give all parents a written warning and a follow up and then try collection . It does bother me that school lunch can’t be free so many children come from poor households , as for some of the comments we can’t assume that parent spend money on booze and drugs just because they are poor .

  • sn douglas 2 years ago

    The children get free breakfast. I would suggest paying the debt and begin packing lunches if the school lunches are too expensive. $12.50 per week ….. $50 per month (aprox) ….. We opted for lunches and I paid in advance …. the office lady was HORRIBLE to the kids if I messed up and didn’t send the money in advance….. We did not expect or want our school district to bear the cost of feeding our kids. $45,000 is a lot of money ….. the debts need to be paid by the parents as soon as possible….

  • Irritated 2 years ago

    Newsflash! “Poor” children whose parents receive government assistance get free lunch. The ones they’re going after are those whom the government deems make too much money for free lunch. And in case you didn’t know, that’s anyone making just above the national poverty standards, approximately $15,000 per year or more. So you figure it out with your judgemental selves, can you afford your bills and to pay for school lunch on such a low income? Now those who have the means and aren’t responsible, by all means should pay, but stop assuming it’s always someone taking advantage of the “system”!

    • Anonymous 2 years ago

      I agree with you. And, please don’t assume that parents who can’t afford to pay for lunch and even buy lunches for their kids, are spending their money on alcohol or drugs. Most of the time, it’s just that they don’t have the money. Yes, if the parents can afford to pay, then pay; but don’t assume that everyone is in the same boat. The low-income families should meet with the school to work out some kind of free lunch for their child or, like one person said, maybe the PTA can help raise money to help pay for school lunches. There’s also ways that can be done rather than resort to outside “collection agencies,” who in itself costs money to hire.

  • Amy 2 years ago

    Well said. It is so sad to me that so many automatically assume the worst when there are tens of thousands of us who are one event away from financial hardship

  • rick karrasch 2 years ago

    The limit for free or reduced price lunch is pretty high and just electing to not pay is unacceptable.

  • Sherry 2 years ago

    Good to see where your priorities are! I’ll bet that they still do that making of an Amway Salesman that they did when I was a kid..they sure did to my kids!You know what I’m talking about.. ” HEY KIDS! Sell the most candy bars, cookie dough, gift wrap, etc.. and you’ll get a pizza party and a limousine ride with the principal!” ..YEP, but if your parents are poor or, have to work, school will punish you and them by critquing your home-packed lunch or making you pay for their sub-standard one. YAYYYYY, HOMESCHOOL!!!!!

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