Don't Tell LA Times There's No Such Thing As a Free Lunch

The Los Angeles Times is on the case of mean government bureaucrats who are making poor, innocent kids cry in their lunch milk.

CHULA VISTA, CALIF. — When too many parents fell behind on paying for
school lunches, the Chula Vista Elementary School District decided to get tough — on the children.

They told students with deadbeat parents that they had only one lunch choice: a cheese sandwich.

The sandwich, served on whole wheat bread, came with a clear message: Tell your parents to pay up — or no more pizza and burgers for you.

Cheese sandwiches and other "alternate meals" have been added to menus in school districts across the country as they try to take a bite out ofparents' lunch debts.

The strategy worked in Chula Vista: Lunch debts in the district fell from about $300,000 in 2004 to $67,000 in 2006. Some angry parents say success came at too high a cost, however.

The cheese sandwich, they say, has become a badge of shame for the children, who get teased about it by their classmates. One student cried when her macaroni and cheese was replaced with a sandwich. A little girl hid in a restroom to avoid getting one. Many of the sandwiches end up untouched or tossed whole in the garbage. Sometimes kids pound them to pieces.

Staff writer Richard Marosi did eventually get around to quoting a taxpayer who urged parents to suck it up and pay the lunch tab, but that was shoved deep into the article after a few complaints from parents about those meanies at the school board.

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