Tuna sandwiches off the menu for Cherry Hill students behind on lunch payments

Justin Udo
October 16, 2019 - 7:45 am
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CHERRY HILL, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — The Cherry Hill Public School District is implementing a new lunch policy following negative backlash from the community. The hot-button issue has gained national attention.

Angry parents did not hold back Tuesday night when they let the school board know they did not like their policy of serving tuna fish sandwiches to kids who fell behind on their lunch payments.

Elizabeth Idler is one of many who thought the alternate lunch was a way to shame students.

"It seems incredibly wrong to penalize the students for the parents' mistakes," she said.

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School district spokesperson Barbara Wilson says their revised policy is making those mandated tuna lunches a thing of the past.

"No longer will we be serving students an alternate lunch. Any student whose account is in arrears will now receive the meal of the day," she said.

Wilson says students still run the risk of losing different after-school privileges.

"The policy specifically says that an administrator may take away certain activities, may prohibit the student from participating in prom, but it's not mandatory," she said.

However, Wilson says, they will work with families to help them pay off their lunch debt. 

"We would like them to come in so we can work with them," she said. "Even if they're not on free- and reduced-priced lunch, we can work a program for them to meet that debt."

However, Idler says she does not think that does enough.

"I don't understand why they haven't taken donations," she said. "I know a number of citizens have offered to cover the lunch debt in full, but they seem very eager to hunt down specific parents to collect the money from them personally."

Cherry Hill mother and grandmother Vibiana Cvetkovic says she's opposed to the old policy — and does not like this new one either.

"I think it's a very sad state of affairs," she said.

Cvetkovic says she's sent her six kids to Cherry Hill schools and now has grandchildren in the district, and she does not like the atmosphere the administrators are creating. 

"I don't even have words," she said. "I can't even believe that a forward-thinking school district like Cherry Hill would come up with such a Draconian measure."

Officials say this new policy, and the old one are a lot nicer than the state mandate that students who owe lunch money should not get a lunch.

The Cherry Hill Board of Education says the district has accrued tens of thousands of dollars of lunch debt from students over the last few years.