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Overdue lunch bill now sticky situation

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Richmond County middle and high school students who fall behind on paying for their lunches are being punished by getting only a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast.

That revelation didn't sit well with several school board members, particularly because the school system offers breakfast free to all students.

"Maybe I'm wrong, but I have a huge problem with it," said Jimmy Atkins, who brought up the topic at Tuesday's board meeting. "I don't think that just because a student may be delinquent in their lunch account that it should affect something we're offering that we call free."

School nutrition director Josephine Mack said the nutrition staff came up with the idea to encourage students who have skipped two or more lunch payments to bring their accounts up to date.

"Children do have their money in high school, and they do other things with it," she said. "We are trying to collect on our charges by giving them the alternate meal at breakfast so they will pay on their lunch account, because they will eat breakfast and then not eat lunch."

The board's policy is to allow middle and high school students one "charge," or unpaid lunch, then offer either a peanut butter and jelly or a cheese sandwich for lunch if they continue not to pay. The school nutrition staff was simply extending that practice to breakfast for middle and high school students who continue to avoid paying what they owe in lunch money, Mack said.

"All schools don't do that," she said. "Some principals tell their (cafeteria) managers they don't want any of their children to have peanut butter and jelly."

Board member Jack Padgett said that means those schools "are going against our own rules," resulting in inconsistent enforcement.

School board Chairman Marion Barnes said the practice of forcing students to have a sandwich for breakfast, which is free, although they are delinquent on lunch accounts is no better than predatory lenders that capitalize on low-income people.

"We are discriminating against kids, and we are embarrassing kids," he said. "If I see (Superintendent) Dr. (Frank) Roberson eating a peanut and butter and I got whatever was served, then I know Dr. Roberson is not paying his bill. I don't think that's good. I see a problem with that."

Board member Helen Minchew also expressed a distaste for breakfast peanut butter and jelly.

"I thought when we approved (free) breakfast years ago it was for all children, regardless of whether they can afford or not afford it, so that they at least have a meal to start off the day," she said. "I'd like to keep it that way and look for other ways to collect the money."

Roberson said he will meet with district staffers to do just that.

"I don't anticipate any need for board action other than an update," he said.

In other business

In other action Tuesday, Richmond County school board committees:

- Accepted a $6.4 million bid from H.G. Reynolds Construction Co. Inc. of Aiken for phase 2 renovations at Tubman Educational Center

- Accepted a $17,603 bid from Mark's Clearing and Grading of Hephzibah to demolish the Junior ROTC building at Hephzibah, which was destroyed by arson in June

- Approved using $1.6 million in Phase III special purpose local option sales tax money to buy textbooks

- Approved using $450,000 in the local option sales tax money for Global Scholar Program, an online grading system for teachers

- Approved using $300,000 in the local option sales tax money to install air conditioning on school buses that don't have it

- Approved using $85,000 in special option tax money to replace five maintenance department trucks having more than 200,000 miles each.

Comments (93) Add comment
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Brenda_G
1
Points
Brenda_G 09/15/10 - 02:41 pm
0
0
I don't have a problem

I don't have a problem what-so-ever with giving a child peanut butter and jelly. It is not a punishment, or I and my children were severely punished growing up. While the delinquent bill is not the child's fault, what kind of a parent doesn't see that their child's needs are first met before they most likely squander money on things that are not necessities. No child should go hungry and I have bought food for stray animals that I could see was hungry; but for Pete's sake make parents accountable! My Grandmother had an interesting remark that is applicable. "Why bark when you can get another dog to bark for you".

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 09/15/10 - 02:47 pm
0
0
Well, most of the times the

Well, most of the times the kids forget to tell parents about it. I know mine do until they have been out of money for a few days... Looks like a good idea would be to draft it out of a checking account once a month on a certain date.

PUPPYMOMMA
1344
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PUPPYMOMMA 09/15/10 - 02:49 pm
0
0
I pack my son pb & j almost

I pack my son pb & j almost every day for lunch. He's in high school and that is what he prefers. It's not cruel. Of course when he comes home he is ready for a snack but aren't most kids?

Brenda_G
1
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Brenda_G 09/15/10 - 02:50 pm
0
0
I appreciate the fact that

I appreciate the fact that children are "forgetful", unless it's some sort of treat you've promised them, but when mine were in school I always knew Monday's was lunch money day. :-)

AugustaVoter
2
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AugustaVoter 09/15/10 - 02:54 pm
0
0
This is an acceptable

This is an acceptable practice. They make it sound as though PB&J is a nasty meal item. It is still free regardless. They could offer them a piece of bread and milk and make that be punishment, or they could give them nothing at all. If I don't pay my power bill they cut my power off. They don't offer me a generator to power my fridge to keep my food from spoiling do they? Be happy that your child gets anything. Idiots!

AugustaVoter
2
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AugustaVoter 09/15/10 - 02:56 pm
0
0
Also my kids bring a slip of

Also my kids bring a slip of paper home when they are out of funds. If the parent isn't checking their child's book bags and folders that is both the child and the parents fault.

gaptomom
141
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gaptomom 09/15/10 - 03:02 pm
0
0
These are middle and high

These are middle and high schoolers NOT elementary schoolers. Bet they don't forget to ask for gas money for their cars or money to go out with friends on the weekend. They should be thankful that breakfast is free. Breakfast wasn't offered when my kids were in school!

zippy
234
Points
zippy 09/15/10 - 03:57 pm
0
0
I disagree with withholding

I disagree with withholding the regular "free" breakfast and substituting PB&J when the lunch account is delinquent. First of all, the breakfast if free to all regardless of whether they eat lunch, bring a lunch or skip lunch. Replacing the regular breakfast with PB&J will just highlight to everyone just who is delinquent. this is going to cause more of a distraction than it’s worth. I can just see kids picking on other kids, skipping breakfast altogether just so they are not embarrassed by the PB&J. The reason breakfast is offered free to all is so that the kids can begin the day with a balance meal and not be hungry as they embark on a day of learning. Just give the PB&J for LUNCH instead of breakfast.

KingJames
10
Points
KingJames 09/15/10 - 04:00 pm
0
0
My only concern here is that

My only concern here is that some children have peanut allergies. What are they supposed to eat as an alternative to PB&J sandwiches?

Also, shouldn't the school nutrition director's name be Josephine Mack, and not Joseph Mack as printed above? I'm just wondering because I remember her from when she taught Home Economics at Morgan Road, and because I remember reading it in the AC before. Here's a link to the story. http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2009/08/26/met_545861.shtml.

rivershyre
0
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rivershyre 09/15/10 - 05:10 pm
0
0
Jimmy Atkins doesn't like it

Jimmy Atkins doesn't like it b/c, as you can see, the man LOVES food.

KingJames
10
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KingJames 09/15/10 - 05:20 pm
0
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Thank you, Jason Wermers, for

Thank you, Jason Wermers, for correcting Mrs. Mack's name. I'm sure she appreciates you for that as well.

j2says
3
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j2says 09/15/10 - 05:20 pm
0
0
They could just purchase a

They could just purchase a system where the parents can go online to put more money on the student's card or automatically draft on the student's card.

mybaskett
218
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mybaskett 09/15/10 - 05:56 pm
0
0
I agree with j2says it would

I agree with j2says it would be so much more convenient for me to be able to pay online. as well as check the balance on my childrens acct. My 7th grader can go through 20.00 in less than two weeks, because she is making other unnecessary purchase. This rule is also implemented in the elementary schools, they often threaten my son with the choice of pb and j when he continues to forget to give me the notice of low funds. It does not bother me. It teaches my 2nd grader to be more responsible. The writer has it wrong, this is not done during breakfast just lunch. Check your facts Jason, Breakfast is free.

OIC
17
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OIC 09/15/10 - 07:32 pm
0
0
The children should receive

The children should receive the free sandwich during their lunch period and not at breakfast. The breakfast is already free. Most of the comments do not take into account that the students are mandated to attend school and should have a meal regardless of payment. Everyone that gave a comment needs to get a life. The sandwich at breakfast is a form of punishment and needs to be addressed.

pommom38
1496
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pommom38 09/15/10 - 07:40 pm
0
0
Shute, I lived on PB&J,

Shute, I lived on PB&J, (still will eat it over a full meal) if that is punishment, then they got it easy! It won't kill the students to eat a sandwich a time or two. It is the school board fussing anyway, not the parents or the students.

AugustaVoter
2
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AugustaVoter 09/15/10 - 07:47 pm
0
0
They are getting free food

They are getting free food regardless people. I can't get a free meal anywhere I want. My employer doesn't give me free breakfast before work. Be thankful for what they DO get free and stop complaining.

augusta citizen
8579
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augusta citizen 10/19/12 - 04:53 pm
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0
..

..

scoobynews
3771
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scoobynews 09/15/10 - 08:32 pm
0
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There are several problems

There are several problems with this. As a teacher, I hand out the notices for who is approved for free or reduced lunch. Believe me some of these kids that get free or reduced live in neighborhoods with $200,000 houses. Figure that one out for me?? Second, if the breakfast is already FREE then as stated by other posters these kids should be getting a regular breakfast like everyone else. If it was the so called "poor" kids getting singled out there would be an out cry from the community about how unfair that was to make them stand out in front of their peers. I personally don't know how a school can give select students free lunch yet make the rest of the population pay. Most of that food is not fit for human consumption and should be free for all students.

Ashtray
0
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Ashtray 09/15/10 - 08:39 pm
0
0
I have a huge problem with

I have a huge problem with it. What they fail to mention is that most of the students eat for free anyway. So since I'm paying $35 a month which is a great deal, most of the other kids are earting for free. So even if I'm late a week I expect my child to be fed and not a p&J sandwich. Take the food from free eaters and give it to my kid. Because I'm paying for the free one to eat too.

pommom38
1496
Points
pommom38 09/15/10 - 09:00 pm
0
0
Anyone that works is paying

Anyone that works is paying for the free meals. But they aren't being coldhearted and whining about it. I don't care if it's because the parents don't earn enough, or they just don't plain work. I would never take food from ANY child.
What is so hard to understand why some get free or reduced and others pay full price? Same as food stamps and any other assistance, some qualify, some don't.
I for the life of me can't understand why anyone would fuss about kids eating!!

jamesf2181
0
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jamesf2181 09/15/10 - 09:32 pm
0
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As a teacher who performs

As a teacher who performs breakfast duty every school day, I would add that what most citizens do not see is the WASTE of food every day. Nearly every morning I witness students throwing away a full breakfast, untouched. I stopped a student once who had just come from the serving line and threw his breakfast right in the trash. When asked why he did that he said he didn't like what was being served, when asked why he took it at all - no answer. But I think I know the answer, because he (parents) did not have to pay for it.

pommom38
1496
Points
pommom38 09/15/10 - 09:44 pm
0
0
I did that too all during

I did that too all during high school, but it was because I was anorexic. And I had to get it or my parents would find out. And no, we never had free or reduced lunch. Asking a kid why he/she throws out food, you expected an answer? Ha.. Kids learn by example.
Again, why all the fussing? Tax payers pay for the food, way more than it's worth to. If I had to eat what they do, i'd be throwing it away too.. lol

PUPPYMOMMA
1344
Points
PUPPYMOMMA 09/15/10 - 09:49 pm
0
0
OIC -everyone that made a

OIC -everyone that made a comment needs to get a life. What's that all about? You gave your opinion and others gave theirs. No need to get huffy because you're with the entitlement crowd. If a parent is not happy that their child was provided with a FREE pb & j sandwich for breakfast then prepare their breakfast before they leave for school. If the parent is financially strapped then fill out the assistance form. I don't think any child should go hungry but beggars can't be choosers.

fatboyhog
1800
Points
fatboyhog 09/15/10 - 10:14 pm
0
0
I'm just curious. What do

I'm just curious. What do these kids do for meals on the weekends and over the summer? Do their parents eat, or do they go to the soup kitchen? Are they really destitute, or are they taking advantage of the freebie? No child should go hungry, that's true. But, parents shouldn't take advantage of the situation either. You brought the child into the world, take care of him/her. Sometimes you have to sacrifice. That's what the rest of us do.

shadypines
7
Points
shadypines 09/15/10 - 10:49 pm
0
0
Uh... maybe I'm missing

Uh... maybe I'm missing something. If they make them eat PB&J for breakfast when their LUNCH account is delinquent, what do they get to eat for LUNCH? Another PB&J? Or do they get a regular lunch? I live in Columbia Co, and I know if my kids' lunch account gets more than a few dollars past due, they get cheese sandwiches and a carton of white milk. They also do not offer free breakfast here, either.

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 09/15/10 - 11:30 pm
0
0
Seems like more

Seems like more micromanagement from the school board.

softvoice67
0
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softvoice67 09/15/10 - 11:58 pm
0
0
No child should be

No child should be spotlighted because the parent did not pay for their lunch. Are you people forgetting that these are students not adults? Regardless whether they can pay or not. Take this issue up with the parents, school is hard enough as it is without causing a child more anguish. Most of the children are not responsible for their income. I say most because some high school students may have part time jobs and can cover their lunch money. Focus on the education portion of school time and not the lunch time. I cannot believe how petty some of society has become.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 09/16/10 - 01:34 am
0
0
What a joke. No wonder RCBOE

What a joke. No wonder RCBOE can't even graduate 50% of their students. Do they teach anything besides enabling 101?

galaxygrl
1165
Points
galaxygrl 09/16/10 - 01:37 am
0
0
Every day, more and more I

Every day, more and more I see our country becoming like something out of a Dicken's novel. "Please sir, could I have some more?" In these tough economic times, does anyone consider the parents didn't have the money for lunch until payday? Nothing wrong with a PB and J sandwich, but how does it seperate the student out? And how would Michelle Obama feel about this with her nutrition push.

Suzy Q
1
Points
Suzy Q 09/16/10 - 02:14 am
0
0
The parents should be called

The parents should be called if the lunch accounts are delinquent. That way, if Jr is holding on to his lunch money to have a little 'flash cash' to impress his friends, the parents can handle the problem.

If they are unable to pay for any other reason, it would give them the opportunity to explain and make arrangements with the school.

This isn't elementary school, and I would bet that the staff dealing with these kids daily knows who can't pay and who WON'T pay.

If I don't make my payments I lose my house, my car, my insurance etc. These kids aren't too young to learn what can happen when you don't pay what you owe.

Or, we can just keep up the sense of entitlement. Why buy ground beef when you can just steal a few steaks?

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