While other school districts around the country have unique ways of lunch-shaming their students – including threatening to take children away from their parents and throw them into foster care – New Jersey plans to punish select students. As more and more students in New Jersey fail to pay for their lunch, they rack up student lunch debt, which one school district hopes to rid by giving indebted students only tuna sandwiches on whole wheat bread if they owe more than $10 for lunch.
Cherry Hill Schools in New Jersey announced their bizarre lunch-debt punishment last Tuesday. They hope that by targeting students who have more than $10 on their lunch tab by giving them only a healthy tuna fish sandwich on whole-wheat bread. As parents know, there is often no punishment better than forcing children to eat the right kind of food.
The healthy tuna sandwich also comes with carrots or cucumbers, and students can choose to drink either milk or juice.
Cherry Hill Schools is facing a large lunch debt of $14,343, which they don’t know how to handle. Unpaid meals accumulated to that sum from just about 343 students last year. Even though there was some lunch debt, the student lunch program had a budget of $2 million and turned a profit of $200,000. Nevertheless, Cherry Hill wants the indebted students to be singled out among their peers, which will shame them.
Of the 11,000 students in Camden County, the tuna sandwich option will be offered to all – but the ones with lunch debt are forced to eat it.
The food choice was pushed onto the school by provider Aramark, and Assistant Superintendent Lynn Shugars took the heat instead of her boss when she spoke up and said:
“We opted for tuna fish over peanut butter because we know that our little ones would probably very happily eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until the end of time.”
As you recall, this was meant to be a punishment. Even though they’re giving kids healthy meals, they want them to hate it, so they pay their lunch debt back.
When Shugars made the announcement at the school board meeting, people spoke up to question her choice:
“Regarding the tuna versus the special of the day, is there a cost-saving to the tuna?”
Not only does Cherry Hill wanted indebted students to pay, but they’re also increasing the price of school lunch from $3 to $3.10.
One school board member said, “for a family that might not qualify (for reduced lunches) or is food-insecure, we’ve already got a problem.”
Laurie Neary said, “So, does that become a recipe for growing the problem versus curtail the problem?”
The district sends letters home every ten days to guilt parents into paying for their children’s lunches. It hasn’t worked yet.
“We are happy to work with parents. We want people to apply for free and reduced lunch because it’s good for us as it is good for them,” Shugars said.
What do you think about this New Jersey school district’s punishment for lunch debtors?
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