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School Lunch Crackdown

Food & Party 73


This story about the "sandwich policy" in public schools made me really sad when I read about it in The CafeMom NewComers Club.

Albuquerque Public Schools are pulling kids whose parents have unpaid lunch charges out of the lunch line and giving them an "alternative meal" consisting of a cold cheese sandwich, a piece of fruit, and a milk carton.

I found this upsetting on so many levels. As the economic crisis worsens, more and more families are struggling to spare lunch money (among plenty of other things). The article notes that kids often view the cold cheese sandwiches (in lieu of a hot meal) as a form of punishment for not being able to afford lunch. Plus, some of the kids in the article mentioned that being singled out was particularly embarrassing to them.

On the other hand, the school district is in a tough position as well. The economic situation is hitting schools hard, too, and there isn't room in the budget to ignore the unpaid lunch charges—which is purported to reach $300,000 by the end of the school year. The district is in the process of collecting money from parents as well as identifying students who may qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. But in the meantime there are plenty of students—not just in New Mexico, but across the country—who are eating cold cheese sandwiches or sometimes nothing at all.

What do you think about the "sandwich policy?" Have you seen a simliar policy in your school?


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betha... bethany169

My son is not in school yet, but I have to believe that lunch money would be one of the first expenses paid every month.  Right behind the house payment--I would eat ramen three times a day if I had to in order to make sure my kid was eating properly.

happy... happymom0724

I worked as a teacher's aide in a school, and I've seen the sandwich policy.  However, the students weren't pulled out of line (all students had a choice of a sandwich: pb and j in elementary, pb and j or tuna in middle school).  I do think the sandwich is better than letting the student go without, because I can understand that usually the school is in a tight spot also.  If it is that hard to pay the lunch bill (for whatever reason), the family should apply for free or reduced lunch.  Many families would qualify that don't apply, and with the new keypads the students use for their lunch, no other students know that they get free or reduced lunch.

BlueO... BlueOrchid1122

I don't understand why this is such an issue. Where's the parent's responsibility to their child and the school? It's our job as parents to ensure that our child has food and it's our job to provide it. If you're having a hard time with finances, pack a lunch. It's as simple as that.

Children in other countries are dying from starvation and we have the gall to whine about a cheese sandwich? No, it's not glamorous or even really all that healthy, but at least it's something. It's not the school's job to sponge the cost of your child's lunch and it robs the education system of much needed money. These parents need to grow up and do what's best for their child, pay the bill or pack their lunches.

tyfry... tyfry7496

In my schook district the kids get graham crackers and peanut butter and milk. The middle school and high schoolers get nothing. It is the parents responsibility to make sure the lunch bill is paid and if not PACK A LUNCH!!! If the parents can't afford school lunches then they need to apply for free or reduced lunches. No one knows if someone gets free lunched because in our district, the kids use their student ID's to scan for lunch.

Cafe... Cafe MicheleZ

Any time a child is singled out for something, it can be hard on the child. Yes, it's the parents responsibility to make sure their child has lunch money or a bagged lunch. But what if they cannot afford either? Times are tough. I feel sad for those kids, too.

BethL... BethLopez

My kids' school gives parents AMPLE opportunity to pay.  They let the account go negative up to about $20 and send home notices daily with the negative balance written on it (can you tell I'm an offender? :/ ).  Once my daughter was given cheese and crackers in lieu of lunch.  This made me angry, but only because I had JUST THAT DAY personally walked into the cafeteria and watched the lunch lady credit her account $50 an hour previous. 

I wish the child could be given a hot lunch like everyone else to "spare them embarrassment", but too many people take advantage of the system as it is.  Where do you draw the line?  And how many free cheese sandwiches does the child get before they're demoted to graham crackers and water?  And is a cheese sandwich, fruit, and milk really that much cheaper than chicken nuggets?  Heh. 

Ditto to BlueOrchid1122.  :)

krist... kristie190

I don't think they should punish the kids for what the parents do that is sad.  How whould you feel if that was your child (not good I am sure)

mssemmy mssemmy

I don't think that children should be singled out but at the same time if you can't afford lunch then apply for discount or free lunch. We had to do this. We don't have much money to go around so we filled out the form they sent at the begining of the year were granted free lunch. My dd had a card just like everyone else and was able to 'buy' the same lunch as the other kids. It's really not that hard.

jm2001 jm2001

My sons school does this. But a notice is sent and they don't do this on the 1st unpaid lunch. But it is the parents responsibility to pay so their kids can eat a healthy meal. I do feel sorry for the children though.

RanaA... RanaAurora

If you can't afford school lunch, PACK ONE FOR YOUR CHILD.
If you qualify for food stamps, you automatically qualify for reduced or free lunches too.

You can't expect the SCHOOL to cover your ass.  Be glad they're able to give your child any food at all.

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