The Trib-Star has an article on the subject of what schools should do about feeding kids whose parents don’t pay the bill for school lunches. The article specifically deals with Vigo County, but it’s an issue that comes up everywhere. On the one hand, none of this is the kids’ fault. On the other hand, there is fear of creating a free rider problem by parents who can pay but choose not to. One solution that makes a lot of people angry is the “cheese sandwich of shame” — an “alternate lunch” that feeds the kid but theoretically creates some pressure to do something about the outstanding bill.
I’m a softy, but I’m inclined to err on the side of feeding the kid and not creating an environment where they feel ashamed of not being rich enough to get the hamburger or whatever the standard lunch is. If I’m getting swindled out of my tax dollars and the result is that those dollars are going to feeding kids, I’m really o.k. with that. If the parents are really taking the school district for a ride, go after them with standard collections procedures. The argument is that collecting the money is more expensive than getting it up front. And, there is some truth to that. But, if the parents really have a lot of extra cash, it shouldn’t be too tough to collect — and, there are ways to impose additional fees for collection costs and attorney’s fees to sort of offset the costs of collection. If the parents don’t have much extra cash, maybe it’s o.k. to help out a little by giving their kids a free lunch.