As if school lunches weren’t bad enough.
An assistant superintendent in New Jersey has proposed a plan to punish students who have unpaid lunch debt with meals consisting of tuna sandwiches — and nothing else — until they pay off what they owe.
The Cherry Hill school district is considering the proposal after it was unveiled this week at a local board meeting. Students who have $10 in unpaid food service bills would be forced to eat the tuna and those with $20 or more would get no lunch at all until their debt is paid.
Assistant superintendent Lynn Shugars told board members that she thought about giving the kids peanut butter instead of tuna, but ultimately chose the latter “because we we know that our little ones would probably very happily eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until the end of time.”
She said the idea stems from an ever-growing meal debt that the South Jersey school district has incurred from the more than 340 students that live and attend classes there. The amount had grown to $14,343 by Tuesday night, according to Shugars.
“I know that that will not be a popular decision,” Shugars said. “No one wants to see a child upset because they can’t get what they want for lunch. But I feel that we are at a point … where that’s the stance that we should take.”
In addition to the proposed punishments, the district is reportedly increasing lunch prices to $3 for elementary and middle school students, and $3.10 for people in high school.
“While that might seem like a lot, as we raise our school lunch prices, and one meal is $3, by like that second meal or day two, for a family that might not qualify (for reduced lunches) or is food-insecure, we’ve already got a problem,” explained Laurie Neary, a school board member.
“So, does that become a recipe to grow the problem versus curtail the problem.”
Shugars said that students forced to eat tuna would also get a beverage and side dish.
“It’s not just a tuna fish sandwich,” she told board members. “It’s an actual meal.”
But parents disagreed.
“It’s food shaming,” said father Rick Short, who has four students enrolled in the district, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s just not right.”
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