America has a food insecurity problem, and poor, hungry kids who can't pay their school cafeteria lunch debt are performatively ridiculed and humiliated by their schools. Despite this shaming, these kids parents refuse to stop being poor, and so schools are turning to desperate measures to provide the right incentives to these parents (meanwhile, kids from wealthy families are being offered front-of-the-line privileges in exchange for their parents' "donations").
In Cherry Hill, NJ — a suburb of Philadelphia — students who can't pay their lunchroom debts will be barred from attending prom or going on field trips or other after-school activities.
A Philadelphia businessman offered to pay off the entire student body's debt ($16,446), but the Cherry Hill district refused his offer, declaring it to be pointless since the debt would just re-occur.
One in five Cherry Hill students is poor enough to qualify for a lunch subsidy.
It's unclear how many Cherry Hill parents with outstanding fees at the end of the 2018-19 school year were eligible for reduced meals. Officials have cited a $14,343 meal debt incurred by about 343 students.
There have been offers to help erase the outstanding debt. But the district has said it would not accept donations because of the likelihood that the debt would then recur.
Ravitz, who lived in Cherry Hill for more than 40 years, said he had hoped to work with "one or two donors to put this issue to sleep." His fourth-generation family business operates two ShopRite stores in Cherry Hill.
"Simply erasing the debt does not address the many families with financial means who have just chosen not to pay what is owed," school Superintendent Joseph Meloche and Board President Eric Goodwin said in a statement.
Cherry Hill school district rejects a Philly businessman's offer to wipe out students' lunch debts [Melanie Burney/Philadelphia Inquirer]
New Jersey school district proposes banning students with lunch debt from field trips, prom [Marty Johnson/The Hill]
District Policy 5513- CARE OF SCHOOL PROPERTY [Cherry Hill Public Schools]
8550- UNPAID MEAL CHARGES/OUTSTANDING FOOD SERVICE CHARGES [Cherry Hill Public Schools]
(via Ames Grawert)