District: No Money In Lunch Account, No 'Humanitarian Meal' - My9 New Jersey

District: No Money In Lunch Account, No 'Humanitarian Meal'

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WILLINGBORO, N.J. -

As kids head back to school, parents are once again faced with the choice: do they let their children buy lunch or do they brown-bag it? But a new lunchtime policy in one local school district has some parents furious.

Most parents in Willingboro should have gotten a letter from the school district in the mail today. It talks about a new lunch program. The new lunch program states that if kids, not on the Free and Reduced Lunch program, don't have money to pay for their school lunch, they will go hungry for the day. This is the newest policy for the Willingboro, New Jersey school district.

"I don't think it's fair for the children to go all day without eating," says Rosa Berder, a mom. "That's like wasting food. If the kid already had the lunch, let the parent know instead of taking food from a kid."

Little Carlos Rios loves school lunches.

"Fish sticks, chicken nuggets," he says.

He can't imagine the day he doesn't get to eat it.

"What if they threw it out?" asks FOX 29's Leigh Scheps.

"I would be sad," Carlos replies.

"I am absolutely afraid that could happen to my kids," says another parent.

This mom didn't want us to show her face or reveal her name in fear of retaliation to her children. She tells FOX 29 that she always fills up her children's lunch account, but sometimes she isn't notified when it gets too low.

"I'm aggravated...a child would go hungry and suffer the social embarrassment of having food thrown in the trash because there's no money in the account," she says.

In a letter sent home to parents, the district says that if a student goes through the lunch line and doesn't have enough money to pay for it, the lunch staff is instructed to throw the meal away.

"Don't you think it's a waste of food to just throw it out?" Scheps asked.

"Well, we're hoping it doesn't happen," says Dr. Ronald Taylor, the Superintendent. "It's either all or nothing type of policy, when you have parents not taking advantage of the reduced lunch and taking away dollars for instruction we have to adopt a policy to enforce it."

Superintendent Ronald Taylor explains that the new policy is in place because parents abused the Free and Reduced Lunch program last year.

"Upwards of $50,0000 for students who had not applied for Free and Reduced Lunch who received free lunches," says Dr. Taylor. "Part of the reason we're doing this is to help hold parents accountable."

Taylor says that the district will warn parents when their account is down to five dollars, that's about three days before it's empty.

"We have guidance counselors and outreach personnel that would reach out well before this happened," says Dr. Taylor.

But this mom doesn't think it will solve anything.

"I am considering packing daily lunches," she says.

The superintendent wants parents to apply for the district's Free and Reduced Lunch Program. That way, children won't have their lunch tossed and go hungry. This policy is perfectly legal. It's up to the district's discretion.

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