Cold cheese is better than no cheese

Economists take note: there is a free lunch, and it's a cheese sandwich. Albuquerque, New Mexico is facing a troubling problem: students who show up to school without their lunch money. (Mind you, these are children who aren't eligible for the official federally-funded "free lunch" program.) In the past, the district has absorbed the cost of delinquent lunch tabs--i.e. students who run up their lunch bill by not bringing the requisite green to pay for it. But this year, the number of unpaid lunch tabs has skyrocketed; the Albuquerque School District is on track to face a $300,000 bill if current trends continue. So instead of a hot lunch--or no lunch--the district has decided to serve these children a cold plate: cheese sandwich, piece of fruit, and carton of milk. Seems like a reasonable compromise, but some parents and community activists are outraged that empty-handed kiddies aren't getting the same hot meal as everyone else. Sorry, folks, but you should be thanking Albuquerque for its generosity; other districts say no moolah, no munchies. And a cheese sandwich is surely better than going hungry.

"No more lunch bills: Schools go after deadbeats," Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press, February 25, 2009

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