A Rhode Island school district hired a collection agency to get parents to ante up for unpaid lunch balances.
To solve a problem that districts face across the country, a letter was sent home to parents of the Cranston School District in Cranston, Rhode Island, NBC 10 News reported. The letter says:
“In an effort to reduce our unpaid balance, the District has retained the services of a collection agency. The company is Transworld Systems and they will begin their collection efforts effective January 2, 2019.”
The district has tried without success to collect the money owed, said chief operating officer Raymond Votto Jr.
The district also wrote off more than $95,000 from Sept. 1, 2016, to Jun 30, 2018. The unpaid balance for this year stands at $45,859, Votto said.
“The District lunch program cannot continue to lose revenue,” he told NBC News 10.
Students who owe still eat
District officials added that even children who owe for multiple meals won’t be denied a lunch.
“We’re feeding the children,” Votto told the news station. “That’s not in dispute. We offer free breakfast.”
Elementary school lunches cost about $2.50 a day, middle school and high school lunches cost about $3.25 a day.
The district wants to take a “soft approach” and is having the debt collection agency send letters, rather than call parents.
Parents also will be notified when a student receives meals on five occasions with no money in his or her account, The Providence Journal reported.
An end to student school-lunch debt?
Thanks to crowdsourcing, there are several examples of erasing school lunch debt at schools or districts.
New York writer Ashley C. Ford raised hundreds of thousands of dollars after she tweeted in 2016 asking people to donate toward overdue lunch balances at a school district near them.
In Austin, Texas, an online campaign, has collected more than the $20,000 need to pay off the city’s public schools lunch debts.
New Mexico outlawed lunch-shaming practices with a student bill of rights, which directs schools to work with parents to pay their debts or sign up for federal meal assistance.
Some people wondered if the Rhode Island district might find a less shameful solution, too.