New Jersey school district considers not serving lunch to kids who owe more than $20 debt

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A New Jersey school district on Tuesday evening plans to discuss whether to strictly enforce their policy of denying food to students who are more than $20 in lunch debt.

The Cherry Hill School District’s Board of Education has faced pushback since an Aug. 13 meeting at which Assistant Superintendent Lynn Shugars proposed giving tuna sandwiches to students who had a more than $10 in lunch debt and no food to students who had more than $20 debt.

The policy has been on the books since 2017, when the district wiped about $25,000 of students’ lunch debt and allowed everyone to start with a balance of $0, according to district Superintendent Joseph N. Meloche.

The debt has ballooned in two years to $18,000, with more than $14,000 owed by 343 students who owe more than $10.

Cherry Hill School District has about 11,000 students across 19 schools. While 6.2 percent of the township is considered in poverty, according to Census data, nearly 20 percent of the students in the district are considered “economically disadvantaged,” according to New Jersey’s Department of Education.

Shugars said the district chose a tuna sandwich for children with more than $10 in debt “because we know that our little ones would probably very happily eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until the end of time,” and giving the PB&Js out for lunch would not encourage debt payments. Also, peanut allergies are becoming more prevalent.

“If we don’t adhere to our policy, we’re going to be perpetually, I feel, chasing after this problem,” Shugars said. Continue Reading