Lunch Shaming: How western Massachusetts schools deal with unpaid lunch accounts

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CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – The Warwick, R.I. School District made national headlines recently for its “lunch shaming policy,” defined as schools singling out students who can’t pay for their lunch. Students in Warwick who owed lunch money were given a sunflower seed butter and jelly, or a cheese sandwich, instead of a hot lunch option.

Parents said the policy could make these children more susceptible to bullying. 

“I think a kid should get fed regardless of their parents owning money or not,” said Jeffery Richards. 

The Warwick district, last week, changed that policy

So, what happens to students in western Massachusetts who fall behind on lunch payments?

The West Springfield School District’s website says elementary students can charge up to eight meals after their account balance reaches $0. After that, they will be offered a “menu alternative.”

In Agawam, the District’s website says students are never denied a meal, but they could also receive an “alternative” if their policy isn’t followed. 

Neither listed what the alternative might be. 

South Hadley Superintendent Dr. Nicholas Young told 22News the state should work with local school districts to find a solution to student lunch debt, and added that “students shouldn’t be embarrassed.” 

In Chicopee and Holyoke, all children receive free breakfast and lunch through a federal program, so no one owes money to the district. 

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