Some disagree over 'cheese sandwich' policy in Whitfield Schools - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Some disagree over 'cheese sandwich' policy in Whitfield Co. Schools

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WHITFIELD COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -- Some say a policy in Whitfield County punishes children when their moms and dads fall behind on paying for school lunches. Students who owe too much money get a cheese sandwich and a carton of milk.

It is a policy that has been around for other school systems, it is just new for Whitfield County. Administrators say they had to do something about a mounting debt from charged lunches. But one woman wants to make sure every child gets a hot meal.

"Our lunch charges were just going higher and higher," says Judy Gilreath, Assistant Superintendent for Support Services in Whitfield County Schools.

Gilreath says after an audit, the government told the school system it faced funding cuts if it did not get the free lunch debt under control.

It looked to other systems that had 'limited charge' policies in place.

"We felt like that we had to put a similar policy in place in order to stop this rising debt," says Gilreath.

As of December, parents owed the school close to $80,000 for unpaid meals.

The new alternative lunch policy went into effect after the holiday break. Elementary and middle school students get five meals without paying, high schoolers three, before being served a lunch of a cheese sandwich and a carton of milk.

"Not only has it reduced our debt to a little over $39,000, but the free and reduced applications has gone up drastically, which tells us that a lot of people qualified for free and reduced lunch, they had just not filled out the paperwork," says Gilreath.

Since the beginning of the year, only 22 alternative lunches have been served. But that does not sit too well with Marietta Hall.

"A lot of times the meals they get at school, may be the only meal they get all day," says Marietta Hall.

Hall has started a fund on her own time, with the school system's permission, to raise money to fill the gaps.

"I challenge all the churches, all the businesses. And I'm not asking everybody to give a lot, just if everybody gave a little," she says.

"We're very appreciative to Mrs. Hall for what she is doing," says Gilreath.

Hall says she is not blaming the school system, she just does not want any kids singled out.

"It's through no fault of the children and we need to take care of the children," says Hall.

Gilreath more children are actually benefiting now from free and reduced lunch, 78 percent of students in the school system now use the program, versus 72 percent before the policy started.

In January they also started a free breakfast program for elementary students.

As far as Marietta Hall's efforts, she has set up a fund at First Bank of Dalton.

If you want to donate, designate the donation to: 'School Lunch Program Assistance Group'

Checks can be mailed to:

PO Box 4366

Dalton, GA 30719

Email questions to:

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