The Cranston Public School District in Rhode Island has a problem. How do they continue to feed their students when the parents can't afford to pay for the daily school lunch?
The district has said they are committed to providing their students with meals, including a free breakfast. But the question is how can they do so if there's no money. From September 2016 to June of this year, the district had acquired a balance of more than $95,000 in unpaid lunches. And since September, lack of payment for school lunches has already reached $45,000.
It's a serious issue, but the school has decided to go about getting the money in exactly the wrong way. This week, they informed parents who are in arrears of more than $20, that the district has enlisted the services of a collection agency to deal with unpaid balance.
The school needs money, but sicking debt collectors after parents who are already struggling is no way to handle this situation.
School hunger is a serious issue. In the U.S. one in six students grows up in a family struggling with hunger. The lack of food not only causes the obvious health problems but according to a recent study, students dealing with hunger in schools are significantly less likely to perform well. This creates yet another barrier to educational success for children growing up in low-income families.
If a parent is unable to pay then they shouldn't be dogged by collection agencies. And if a school district can't collect the funds to keep the school lunch program afloat, then they should be able to rely on the state to help out.
In fact, the state should be the one footing the bill for this vital program in the first place. The governor should step in and ensure that all kids have the meals they need to keep them alert and ready to learn while they are at school.
Help make this happen. Sign the petition and ask Gov. Gina Raimondo to make lunch free to all students as part of the education budget.