Yogurt Maker Pays Off Lunch Debt After School Decides To Serve Cold Food To Students Who Owe Money

Yogurt Maker Pays Off Lunch Debt After School Decides To Serve Cold Food To Students Who Owe Money

In an attempt to make students pay for thier lunch, Warwick public schools took this extreme measure. However, the popular yogurt company Chobani stepped forward to pay off these debts.

Recently, a Rohde island-based school district was criticized for selectively serving kids cold sandwiches. This began when the school introduced a "lunch shaming" policy at the cafeteria for the students who hadn't cleared their school lunch dues.  According to a report in the Providence Journal, the district officials announced that they would only serve sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwiches in lieu of warm food to the ones who have unpaid debts.


The district further justified why this policy was necessary. Due to a large amount that easily goes up to tens of thousands of dollars, which has caused a deficit in the budget by $4 million, the district claimed they had no choice but to go down this route.  Of course, the people including the teachers, parents and other members of the community were not very pleased by this decision. The director of Psychology at the University of Rhode Island, Kathleen Gorman sent an email to Global Citizen outlining her views on this matter.


Having a fair amount of knowledge about 30 years worth of studies that show how poverty affects the development of a child she said, "It is disheartening to know that schools are unable to find the resources to feed children during the school day and that punishing the students is their preferred alternative." The director of school and out-of-school time programs,  Crystal FitzSimons, at the Food Research & Action Center explains how lunchroom strategies such as Warwick's has a high probability of negatively impacting the kids' social and emotional well-being.


FitzSimons said, "How school districts choose to deal with unpaid school meals debt has a big impact on students and the quality of the culture inside and outside of the school cafeteria." She further added, "It also affects whether or not students have the healthy nutrition they need to focus and concentrate throughout the school day." Amidst these disappointments, a yogurt company called Chobani made the noble decision of paying a part of this debt reports Turnto10.



Chobani cleared an amount of  $47,650 from the total pending sum of $77,000.  They chose to clear the lunch debt of students whose families come under the low-income group. Since Wednesday, 1,653 families have a clean slate thanks to the donation made by this company. Turnto10 also reported that this group includes many students who were a part of the free or reduced lunch program. During a press release, the company said, "The last thing that kids should worry about today is if there’s a warm lunch for them at school -- and the shame they may feel if their classmates realize they can't afford a school lunch."



The founder and CEO of Chobani took it a step further and urged others to help the community in a video posted on Twitter. Issuing this challenge the 46-year-old entrepreneur and philanthropist wrote: As a parent, news of #WarwickPublicSchools breaks my heart. every child should have access to natural, nutritious & delicious food, so @Chobani is doing our small part to help pay this debt business must do its part.. our responsibility as members of the community. who will join us?"


While this helpful gesture was much appreciated by everybody, this company wasn't the first to approach the school to pay off the debt. The New York Times reported that Angelica Penta, a restaurant owner, who wished to donate $4,000 towards reducing the debts once the news of this policy went viral. Surprisingly, she was dismissed with the excuse that it "was not in the position to single out or identify specific students that should be selected for a reduction in their lunch debt while excluding others," reported Turn to 10.



Although Penta's requests were rejected, it didn't stop her from collecting donations at her restaurant. A GoFundMe account was also set up recently, and it has collected $56,693 at the time of writing. As more and more people are joining forces to help the families of these students, the school district seems to be reconsidering their scheme of serving cold sandwiches to the ones who owe money. The school committee is set to have a vote on Tuesday about the measure they have implemented. 


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