After Backlash, Rhode Island School District Rolls Back ‘Lunch Shaming’ Policy

Fundraising efforts to spare kids from from lunchtime humiliation in a Rhode Island school district have resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in donations over a couple of days, including nearly $50,000 by New York-based yogurt-maker Chobani.

On Sunday, Warwick Public Schools, a small school district facing approximately $77,000 in overdue lunch fees this year, curtly announced plans to implement a new policy that would ban students with outstanding balances from choosing from the cafeteria’s hot meals. Instead, it would limit children to “sun butter and jelly” sandwiches until the debt was repaid or a payment plan established.

The change was set to take effect on May 13, but immediate outrage on Facebook and national media attention prompted officials to reverse the decision just one day later.

In a Facebook post, Karen Bachus, chairwoman of the Warwick School Committee, said that “after careful review and consideration” the committee recommended “allow[ing] the students their choice of lunch regardless of their account status.”

She also stressed that a vast majority of the debt — 72% — is from students who are not enrolled in the National School Lunch Program. She added that as of the announcement, about $14,000 had been collected from outstanding balances. Bachus also detailed the monthlong process by which the district seeks to collect payment from parents — a process that involves sending multiple letters home over 90 days.

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