A knife with butter rests on two slices of bread

Marco Verch / Flickr

School district will now only give cold sandwiches to students with lunch debt

People are enraged that the district denied a $4,000 donation from a local business owner.


Samira Sadeque


Published May 8, 2019   Updated May 20, 2021, 1:03 pm CDT

A Rhode Island school district has caught the ire of the internet after announcing that students with lunch debt will only get cold sandwiches until their balance is fully paid.

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“If money is owed on a paid, free, or reduced lunch account a sun butter and jelly sandwich will be given as the lunch choice until the balance owed is paid in full or a payment plan is set up through the food service office,” Warwick Public Schools announced on Facebook on Sunday. 

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Warwick Public Schools told NBC that they are owed more than $40,000 in lunch balances, and the new measure will go into effect next Monday. The school district did not return the Daily Dot’s request for comment.

People online, outraged by the way the district is shaming children whose parents cannot pay, are offering to chip in.

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Some were especially angry since local business owner Angelica Penta shared that she’d offered a $4,000 check to pay off part of the debt, but the school refused to take it.

“I have met with Warwick twice and the second time I left in tears after they refused to take a $4,000 check,” Penta, owner of Gels Kitchen, wrote on Facebook. “I get where they are coming from. They don’t want parents getting upset if their childs [sic] lunch gets paid for, but if they are going through hard times they may need help. I come up with several different ideas and they were all shut down.”

So I really didn't want to post anything about this, because I know everyone has a different opinion on the matter, but…

Posted by Gels Kitchen on Sunday, May 5, 2019

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Warwick Public Schools reportedly said it was not comfortable with Penta making a blanket donation and leaving it for the school to decide which kids will benefit, as it’s not consistent with its “mission to treat all children equitably.”

People are understandably upset that not only would the school district refuse funds, but that it would talk about equality when it was ready to give some students a lesser lunch.

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Since the district wasn’t responsive to Penta’s individual donation, a GoFundMe was set up yesterday to help pay off the debt for the Warwick students. It has so far raised more than $6,000 of its intended $77,000.

The issue of lunch debt also recently made headlines after the mother of police-shooting victim Philando Castile donated $8,000 to a Minnesota high school to pay off students’ balances. A survey the by School Nutrition Association showed that 40% schools reporting an increase in the number of students in need of school lunches between 2016 and 2017.


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*First Published: May 8, 2019, 12:11 pm CDT