Students who owe lunch money to get cold sandwiches

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Students Receiving School Lunch

FILE – In this Jan. 25, 2017, file photo, students fill their lunch trays at J.F.K Elementary School in Kingston, N.Y., (AP Photo/Mary Esch, File)

 A Rhode Island school district will begin serving cold sandwiches instead of hot lunches to students whose families owe lunch money.

Warwick Public Schools says it is owed more than $40,000 from outstanding lunch payments and cannot afford to absorb the costs.

The new policy begins next Monday.

A local restaurant owner wrote on Facebook that the district twice turned down a $4,000 donation for the lunch debt.

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

The district recommended the donor take applications and decide who receives the money.

Critics say such lunch debt policies shame children for something outside of their control.

Pending legislation would change state law making free hot lunches available for all students regardless of income.

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