Cheesy Penalty for a Late School Lunch Bill

By Mary-Ellen Phelps Deily — June 01, 2007 1 min read
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Pay up, or all you’ll get is a cheese sandwich. That’s the story from The San Diego Union-Tribune, which reports on elementary schools in Chula Vista, Calif., where the method for getting deadbeat parents to pay their children’s school-lunch fees is restricting their children to a cheese sandwich lunch. In Chula Vista, a school lunch costs $1.50. District officials say they racked up $285,000 in unpaid lunch bills just four years ago, but their new sandwich restriction cut that debt by more than $100,000 in 2003, the first year it was implemented.

When a student’s lunch account falls into the red, school officials send a letter home informing the parents, call the parents, and ask the student to remind the parents to pay, Staff Writer Chris Moran writes. But if the parents fall three meals behind, their children are relegated to the cheese sandwich and refused other choices on the lunch menu. The strategy has proven effective, although some label the sandwich an unfair “scarlet letter” of shame for the children involved. School officials say the move has helped them continue to feed children while getting their parents to pay up. Poor children who are served by the federal free and reduced lunch program are not affected.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Around the Web blog.