Parents Petition Against Falmouth Public Schools Serving Students Cold, Cheese Sandwich

Screenshot of the petition on Change.org
SCREENSHOT - Screenshot of the petition on Change.org

Residents are outraged at the school’s policy of feeding students who forget their lunch money a cold, cheese sandwich.

“I think it’s so wrong,” said Tanya L. Peters of East Falmouth, a nurse and mother of two children in the school system.

Ms. Peters started an online petition Tuesday night on change.org that asks the school to change its meal policy. The petition was quickly passed around through social media, and had 686 signers as of this morning.

“Our children deserve a healthy meal regardless of whether or not they forgot their lunch money,” Ms. Peters’s petition reads. “As taxpayers, parents, and human beings, we refuse to let even one child be served a ‘cold cheese sandwich’ as their only means of sustenance while at school.”

Several signers of the online petition wrote that some children may not be bringing in lunch money because their parents cannot afford it, in which case, they wrote, the policy is especially shameful.

Ms. Peters’s own children do not buy school lunch, but she said she knows a parent whose child recently forgot his lunch money and received a cold, cheese sandwich, instead of the hot lunch he was expecting. The child felt “humiliated” by the experience, Ms. Peters said.

There must be a way of dealing with outstanding lunch payments that does not involve the child directly, Ms. Peters said. “The kids should never have to know about that,” she said. “Let’s put our brains together and figure out a better way.”

Attached to the online petition is a photograph of a note sent home from Teaticket Elementary School. It reads that until the child’s lunch balance of $1 is paid, the child will receive a “cold, cheese sandwich” for lunch.

The school’s official “lunch charge” policy reads that “students that occasionally forget their lunch money or homemade lunch may charge on that day and the charge is to be paid back the next day. The lunch charge menu will be: an American cheese sandwich, whole wheat bread, carrot sticks, apple, and a half pint of skim milk.” 

A letter sent home to parents yesterday from interim Teaticket principal Laney Cook-Johnson reiterates this policy and states, “This lunch meets all nutritional requirements as set forth by the United States Department of Agriculture. Please be assured that no child is ever denied lunch.”

Loosely Followed Policy

Ms. Cook-Johnson said yesterday that although that is the official policy, “it has never really been followed.”

Ms. Cook-Johnson is new to Teaticket, but she said she has talked to multiple teachers, custodians and lunch aides who report that staff generally ignored the policy and served students the hot lunch anyway.

“I can’t guarantee it’s never happened,” Ms. Cook-Johnson said. “But I haven’t heard anything except ‘We never followed that policy anyway.’ ”

“I almost don’t want to say that, because we haven’t been following the policy,” she added.

Ms. Cook-Johnson said she understands Ms. Peters’s concern that children could feel humiliated by the cheese sandwich. “It’s not the child’s fault” their parents did not provide lunch money, she said. “We do not treat children like that.”

Ms. Cook-Johnson said that cafeteria staff were tasked with handing out the notes about the cold cheese sandwiches, which have been going home with students for years, she said. Communication over outstanding lunch balances will now be handled in a more sensitive manner by the principal’s office, she said.

Nancy R. Taylor, the school’s director of pupil personnel services, said that any changes to the lunch policy would need to go through the policy subcommittee of the school committee. But, she suggested, parents with concerns should first “have a conversation with the building principal.” Ms. Cook-Johnson said Ms. Peters has not contacted her.

Several signers of the online petition wrote that some children may not be bringing in lunch money because their parents cannot afford it, in which case, they wrote, the policy is especially shameful.

Responding to that, Ms. Taylor said, “We’re all so sensitive to the economic times, and try to reach out to parents” to discover if the absent lunch money is due to economic hardship. For these families, the school offers free and reduced lunch payments.

Forty-one percent of children at Teaticket Elementary are already enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program. Lunch costs $2.75, the reduced charge is $0.40.

Ms. Taylor said, “We do struggle” with collecting lunch payments from parents.

Ms. Cook-Johnson said, “There have been years where thousands of dollars have never been paid back.”

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  • Billcarson

    The Town of Falmouth has lost money building those two commercial wind turbines with millions of dollars in debt. The turbines were supposed to bring in over a million dollars a year and now could cost taxpayers up to $500,000.00 a year just to keep them operational so Massachusetts can achieve a renewable energy goal ? Now the Town of Falmouth is going to beat some kid over the head over a dollar in school lunch money ? Two weeks ago there was an article on Bullying maybe they should play that to the people that run this town ? While we are at it what happened to the water testing results from the Teaticket Elementary School - do they have to pay for bottled water because of bad water ? Did they ever fix the bad water ? Why all the problems at this school ?