Rhode Island school district to give cold sandwiches to students who owe lunch money

Students in one Rhode Island school district who have not paid previous lunch bills will receive cold sandwiches instead of a hot meal, officials announced.

Warwick Public Schools said in a statement that students who owe money under a "paid, free, or reduced lunch account" will receive sun butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch "until the balance owed is paid in full or a payment plan is set up."

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The school district said that more than $40,000 is owed for outstanding lunch bills and it can't afford to absorb the costs.

But a local restaurant owner reportedly wrote on Facebook that the district turned down a $4,000 donation for the lunch debt two tim

es. The district responded in a statement saying it must treat all students equally and cannot single out which debts to reduce.

The Warwick school district, located under 20 miles south of Providence, recommended the donor take applications and decide who receives the money.

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The district's website indicates that students are offered free or reduced priced meals, based on several factors, including household income.

The new policy is scheduled to take effect May 13.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.