Cold Cheese Lunch for Kids Whose Parents Don't Pay

I just read an article about how New Mexico's largest school district is now serving students a cold cheese sandwich, fruit and milk carton if their parents don't pay their lunch bill.

They've resorted to this because unpaid lunch charges started piling up since the economy started going down. This doesn't, however, affect parents who qualify for free meals.

A couple things about this struck me:

1. These poor kids! Yes it's nice that they still do get a lunch; they're not going hungry. But, what kind of embarrassment is this putting them through at school? We all remember what it was like growing up with peer pressures, going through changes, popularity being so important and all of that business.

2. Did the parents think the school would just forget about their tab? Trust me, I understand we are in tough times and people have to pinch pennies, but these are not families that qualify for free meals, couldn't they send some sort of sack lunch so the student at least feels they're not being handed a poor man's meal and has to shoulder the burden mom and dad are dealing with?

3. A positive - I do think it's great that schools will not let students go hungry. It's especially important during tough times, as this situation illustrates, when parents/ guardians cannot afford to pay a school lunch bill because they maybe have more pressing bills - such as electricity and water - and have to make a choice.

4. Schools are dealing with the economy, too. They have budget cuts to make up and feeding the kids a full cafeteria meal for free just isn't an option. They rely on parents paying their bills so the school can pay its bills.

Eligibility for the National School Lunch Program: Household income determines whether the student recieves free meals, reduced price meals (the max. price to the student's family is 40 cents), or "paid meals, for which students pay most of the cost (the federal government pays a modest amount for administrative costs).

What do you think? Should the schools lower a heavier hammer on the parents who aren't paying their bills, rather than just saying, 'Well hey you're kid's gonna eat a cold cheese sandwich until you pay?' What about the kids; what affect does this - and the economic situation in general - have on them?

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