Amid backlash, Warwick rolls out donation form to help curb school lunch debt

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WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) —  After receiving criticism for denying a donation to help offset thousands of dollars in lunch debt, Warwick Public Schools has reversed their policy, saying they will now accept donations.

Warwick Public Schools announced Friday they will now be accepting donations that will be put towards the city’s school lunch debt, which currently stands at $77,000.

The school district shared a newly made donation form on its social media platforms.

The form asks donors if they “…agree to have this money utilized at the end of the school year and distributed in an equitable manner amongst all accounts?”

If they do not agree, the form then asks the donor to explain how they would like the donation to be distributed.

On Thursday, yogurt company Chobani announced it is making a more than  $47,000 donation to help pay off the unpaid lunch debt in the district. The hosts of “The Talk” on CBS to pledge approximately $40,000 between them and CBS corporate. A GoFundMe page set up for the district has already raised more than $55,000.

Warwick School Committee Chair Karen Bachus tells Eyewitness News if they receive more than the $77,000 currently owed, they may set up a school lunch fund to put towards future lunch debt.

The city’s excessive school lunch debt was first brought to light in March 2018 when Angelica Penta, owner of Gel’s Kitchen, started a money jar to help students who struggle to afford lunch in West Warwick. She eventually expanded it to include Warwick as well.

More than a year later, she was the first to present both West Warwick and Warwick schools with a donation of $4,000. West Warwick Public Schools accepted the check from her and said they will apply it to their school lunch debt at the end of the year. Warwick Public Schools initially denied her donation, but changed their mind after receiving public backlash when the story made national headlines.

Warwick Public Schools also scrapped a modified policy they were using to curb the city’s student lunch debt. The policy has been to provide students who have accrued a certain amount of unpaid lunches with a sunbutter and jelly sandwich or cheese sandwich until their balance is paid in full or a payment plan is set up. A new policy would have removed the cheese sandwich option. On Tuesday, the school committee announced students who are in debt would no longer be limited to a single lunch choice.

Anyone who wants to make a donation to Warwick Public Schools should fill out the form on the district’s website and send it along with the donation to the Superintendent’s office at 69 Draper Avenue in Warwick.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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