Student calls school board's policy of providing tuna fish sandwiches to those in lunch debt a 'badge of shame'

Parents and students are upset over a New Jersey school board proposal to give any student who has a lunch debt of over $10 only tuna fish sandwiches. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Students and parents of a New Jersey school district stood together on Tuesday night to voice their displeasure over a recent school board proposal that any student who has a lunch debt of over $10 receive only tuna fish sandwiches. The proposal also states that those owing more than $20 would receive no lunch at all.

Earlier this month, the assistant superintendent of Cherry Hill School District, the 11th-largest public school district in New Jersey, proposed a policy in which students in debt would receive tuna fish sandwiches, citing a $14,343 meal debt. The policy has been on the books since 2017, and is in line with the state's requirements, according to NBC Philadelphia, but has not been enforced.

Assistant superintendent Lynn Shugars, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, claimed the district opted for tuna over peanut butter because "we know that our little ones would probably very happily eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until the end of time."

According to NJ.com, students who have a debt over $10 will only receive a tuna sandwich, beverage and a side dish; students with over $20 in debt will have their meals cut entirely. The outlet adds that the school district has also increased its lunch prices.

For elementary and middle school students, lunch costs $3 a day, while high schoolers are charged $3.10.

“As we raise our school lunch prices, and one meal is $3, by, like, that second meal or day two, for a family that might not qualify [for reduced lunches] or is food-insecure, we’ve already got a problem," Laurie Neary, a school board member, told NJ.com.

Shugars says that the district is more than "happy to work with parents," and that every 10 days, a letter regarding a student's lunch debt is sent home, along with information about how to qualify for financial help and how to apply for reduced or free lunches.

"We want people to apply for free and reduced lunch because it’s good for us, as it is good for them,” Shugars said.

At a recently held school board meeting, however, both students and parents were passionate in voicing their displeasure over the proposal.

"The easily recognizable tuna fish sandwich will become a badge of shame,” the student body president at Cherry Hill East High School, Oliver Adler, said. “What the board may fail to recognize is that school cafeterias are not always friendly places, and students will be stigmatized because of the food they carry,"

A freshman, Eva Friddell, went on to beg the board not to "take it out on the kids for what the parents have done."

One member of the community called the policy a "disaster" and a "public relations fiasco."

Representatives of Cherry Hill School District did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment. However, according to NBC Philadelphia, the board has not withheld lunches from students, and it will revise the policy and call for a vote on it in September.

Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle:

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for nonstop inspiration delivered fresh to your feed, every day.