Lurie Favors On NJ School Lunch Debt
Business offered to pay off district’s $14K school lunch debt, but school said no thanks
The school district of Cherry Hill has rejected an offer to erase more than $14,000 in school-meal debts with a donation from a local supermarket chain, a district spokeswoman said. The offer came from Steve Ravitz, whose family operates a chain of five ShopRite and one PriceRite market in South Jersey. Ravitz, 72, announced his offer recently in a local Facebook group. District officials said they were not able to reach him through phone calls to the company’s headquarters in Cherry Hill, but would have rejected the offer. The debate over the district’s meal-debt policy has metastasized into the national spotlight.
Cherry Hill passed a plan to punish students with more than $20 in lunch debt by limiting participation in some extra-curricular activities, including senior prom. The new plan scrapped a proposal to cut off meals for students who owed more than $20.In a plan she announced on Monday, Warren said she would use a wealth tax to increase school funding by hundreds of billions of dollars, to – among other things – cancel student lunch and breakfast debt and provide free meals. Jason Ravitz, Steve’s son, who is also an executive in the family supermarket business, said his family’s markets regularly give back to the needy and are still based in Cherry Hill. Ravitz is a deputy mayor and member of the township committee in Voorhees, a neighboring town. The Cherry Hill school district had $14,343 in meal debt in the last school year from more than 300 students who owed more than $10.
The $3 million food program turned a $200,000 profit in the last school year despite the lunch debts. Local officials said they were mandated to take action by a state policy that calls for cutting off meals after $20 of debt. Cherry Hill officials have forgiven more than $25,000 of delinquent payments in previous years before the debt rose again.
When You Can’t Afford School Lunch, the Toll Is More Than Just Physical
Imagine being eight years old and getting your first taste of student debt. This May, a Minnesota high school was accused of attempting to keep students from participating in graduation exercises if they owed lunch money. The state’s attorney general ultimately stepped in and declared that schools were prohibited from preventing eligible students from participating in graduation ceremonies due to unpaid meal debts. Just last month, Pennsylvania’s Wyoming West Valley school district came under fire after sending letters to parents of children who hadn’t paid their school lunch debt. The letter advised parents that they could be taken to court and have their children placed in foster care if the lunch debt wasn’t paid.
In a note announcing the donation, the school district also apologized for the initial letter. Chobani paid $47,650 in outstanding lunch debt in Rhode Island, and in June, the company donated $85,000 to pay off lunch debts in Idaho. The shame, emotional stress, and poverty – not to mention hunger – experienced by these children can take a real toll on their academic performance and well-being, child-development experts told Teen Vogue. According to a 2018 survey of 1,550 school districts nationwide, 75.3% reported unpaid student meal debt at the end of 2016-2017 school year. The survey, conducted by the School Nutrition Association, found debt at one school as high as $865,000, with a median debt amount of $2,500 across all schools, ABC News reported.
In 2017, the US Agriculture Department began requiring school districts to have policies concerning student lunch debt, but they didn’t specify how districts should recover debts. So some schools have continued using methods such as stamping children, threatening to have children put in foster care, and even using collection agencies.
School lunch debt: Cherry Hill, New Jersey school bans students with lunch debt from going to prom and field trips
A school district in New Jersey has decided students who have more than $75 in lunch debt will be banned from several extra curricular activities. Students in Cherry Hill who have accrued debt will not be allowed to attend prom or go on field trips, the BBC reports. The measure replaces an old policy that said students who owed more than $10 would only be allowed tuna sandwich meals – and those with more than $20 in debt would get nothing. Now, students who cannot pay will still receive hot lunch from the daily menu – but no a la carte items. The school board has been trying to find a solution for the thousands of dollars worth of unpaid lunch dues, according to CBS Philadelphia.
Two years ago, the district forgave $25,000 in lunch debt and adopted a new policy to pressure parents to pay – or apply for free lunches if they couldn’t. This time, a businessman offered to bail the district out of lunch debt. Several school districts have grappled recently with how to handle students’ school lunch debts. A school district in Rhode Island came under fire in May after announcing students with school lunch debts would be served cold sunbutter and jelly sandwiches. A local restaurant owner offered to donate $4,000 to relieve students of their lunch debts, but the school denied her donation.
The district explained that it participates in the federally assisted National School Lunch Program that provides nutritional, affordable lunches to all children, and reduced-cost or no-cost lunches to those who qualify. Earlier this month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a measure that stipulates that all students get lunch – regardless of whether their families are behind in paying meal fees.