My nephew attends Vance Elementary. At the beginning of school, they sent home a form for free/reduced lunches. It was filled out and sent back in. His family is on Food Stamps, so the approval for free lunch was a given. Or so we thought.
At the end of August, a note [was sent] home with him. It stated that if he continued to charge lunches, [their total could] not exceed $5, and action at that point would be “cheese sandwiches” for lunch. He continued to have lunch on his free-lunch [basis], but there came no approval. [Then] he came home from school telling the family he was denied breakfast and was offered a cheese sandwich for lunch: no mayo and no mustard, just cheese.
When did we start forgetting about nutrition and a warm meal? I thought NCKIDS [participants] didn’t go hungry. If money is owed, take it up with the parents—not the kids.
— Amy Gilman
Vance Elementary Principal Cynthia Sellinger responds: Parents are given 15 school days to get the free/reduced lunch application in and processed. Until [then], the child can eat [based on] last year’s application status. If they did not have this year’s application in, they were changed to a “paying” student. If the student was [on] “paying” status at the time of the charge and later is [classified as] a “free” student, we cannot … get reimbursement from the federal government. They allow for no wait time. The school has paid for lunch charges in previous years that equaled over $150. This is money that could have been used for student activities and supplies.
The cheese sandwich is policy, and several schools resort to this when the charges are $5 or more. We send out letters to parents repeatedly each week until the charges are paid.