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.