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Kokomo parents, students, district at odds over cheese sandwich served in lunch line

A picture of a cheese sandwich in the Kokomo High School cafeteria has been shared hundreds of times on Facebook after it was served to students who owed more than $25 on their meal accounts.
Photo: Sierra Feitl

A picture of a cheese sandwich in the Kokomo High School cafeteria has been shared hundreds of times on Facebook.

The sandwich was served to students who owed more than $25 on their meal accounts. Some students and parents say the meal is inadequate and embarrassing, but the superintendent says the district has to enforce the rules.

Kokomo High School Senior Sierra Feitl was in the cafeteria on the first day back from Winter Break when she saw something she had never seen before.

"When we got up to the line, to pay and put our numbers in, the girl that was in front of us, they were like, 'You owe $25.60, I have to take the tray from you'," Feitl sad.

Feitl and her friends learned that all of the students who had hit the determined debt limit were offered what the school calls an "alternate lunch." The meal includes a either a cheese or peanut butter sandwich and a milk jug.

Frustrated, Feitl snapped a picture on her phone and posted it on Facebook.

"I think the worst part was that they did it when you were paying, in front of everybody else. So if you didn't have the money that you needed in your account, everyone got to see that," Feitl said.

Her post garnered comments on both sides.

"Someone said, 'Why are people mad at the school for this? They should be mad at the lousy parents that allowed this to happen'," Feitl said, reading a comment on her post.

"It was a slap in the face to the kids. Just, 'Here's a piece of bread with a piece of cheese on it'," said Kokomo parent Kim Willhite.

"My kids are not in an institution. This is for learning and they want you to be healthy and all that when you come to school. Well, how are you going to be healthy if you're eating a cheese sandwich?" said Kokomo parent Shannon McCoy.

The district sent a notice to parents at the end of last year about the change.

Dr. Jeff Hauswald, superintendent of Kokomo School Corporation, was not available for an on-camera interview Wednesday. However, he says the rule follows federal regulations and aligns with other surrounding districts.

The policy does not apply to students who meet requirements for free or reduced lunch. A student qualifies for that program if their family income is below $45,000 dollars a year for a family of four. The superintendent says those students are in the most need and make up 70 percent of the student population.

Last year, the district had to pay off more than $50,000 worth of unpaid school meals.

"It doesn't matter how much a parent makes, or what's on their lunch account. Don't ever feed my kid just bread and cheese, that's just not right at all," McCoy said.

"I don't like seeing my friends getting their food taken away from them and then getting handed this so everybody else in line knows that their account isn't paid, for whatever reason," Feitl said.

Carmel, Zionsville, Noblesville and Westfield Washington Schools have similar policies in place. The Kokomo School Corporation says their program will not be fully implemented until February 1.