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School Subcommittee: Drop Lunch Debt SunButter & Jelly Sandwich Policy

{CREDIT: Warwick Public Schools] Warwick Schools Administration is headquartered at 69 Draper Ave.
{CREDIT: Warwick Public Schools] Warwick Schools Administration is headquartered at 69 Draper Ave.
{CREDIT: Warwick Public Schools] Warwick Schools Administration is headquartered at 69 Draper Ave.

WARWICK — As Warwick Public Schools’ policy on SunButter and jelly sandwiches for students with unpaid lunch accounts made national news, the Policy Subcommittee advised allowing all students their choice of lunch.

“After careful review and consideration the policy subcommittee is recommending that the Warwick School Committee allow the students their choice of lunch regardless of their account status,” Bachus wrote.

Bachus wrote a three-page statement about the policy and the $77,000 in school lunch debt students’ families had accrued. She pointed out that the majority of the children affected by the policy were not on free or reduced lunch programs. Only 28 percent of balances are from families enrolled in the free/reduced lunch program, Bachus wrote.

As of May 3, the number of students with a balance on their lunch accounts was 1,653, she said. On Monday and Tuesday, about $14,000 was collected from families with unpaid accounts, Bachus said.

Bachus also addressed the efforts of Mike & Gel’s Pizza owner Angelina Penta, who had attempted to donate $4,000 to the School Department to help resolve the school lunch debt problem, but had been turned away.

“With respect to donations, we are grateful for any financial support that has been
 offered. We are working with our attorneys to ensure that we accept donations in compliance with the law and that the donations are applied in an equitable manner. Please note that 72 percent of the debt has been accrued by paying students, not children on the Free and Reduced Lunch Plan,” Bachus wrote.

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The GoFundMe page set up to collect the full $77,000 Warwick School student lunch debt owed, launched by Penta’s neighbor, Cait Clement, had raised $17,000 toward the goal as of 7 p.m. Wednesday night. The cause has been receiving a lot of positive attention, Penta said.

“The Talk is making a huge donation. I didn’t even know they showed the news interviewed. This is so crazy!!!! Alec Baldwin called the restaurant today and he wants to come down and help us!!! We are even being talked about in Canada!!!!,” Penta wrote to followers of her Facebook Page. Penta said they are well on their way to raising the full amount.

“We are on our way to raising ALL the money for the lunches! A friend set up a GoFundMe please anyone that can donate please keep donating. We don’t want any of these children to have to eat a cold sandwich on Monday!” Penta wrote.

Mayor Joseph J. Solomon said he shares the dismay expressed by members of the community about the policy as it stands.”

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“The decision by the Warwick School Committee to implement this policy is upsetting not only to me, but to many residents of our community. Continuing this policy could impact our children’s social development. It also sends the wrong message to our students regarding what the City of Warwick is actually about – ensuring that our students are in a positive environment where they can focus on learning, develop strong relationships, and not be distracted by other issues. I am very concerned about the negative effect this policy is having on our City, but more importantly, about the impact this could have on students throughout their life,” Solomon said.

“The School Committee is reportedly willing to reexamine their policies regarding donations from outside organizations and individuals, but they need to address the underlying management issues that created this issue in the first place,” Solomon continued.

Lunch Policy 8 May 2019