Cranston schools hire collection agency to recover unpaid lunch money

The Cranston school district says it has hired a collection agency to recover unpaid lunch balances. (MGN)

The Cranston School District hired a collection agency to recover unpaid lunch balances.

In a letter to parents obtained by NBC 10 News, Raymond Votto Jr., chief operating officer of Cranston Public Schools, said the district has previously tried to collect outstanding lunch bills "without much success."

"In an effort to reduce our unpaid balance, the District has retained the services of a collection agency. The company is Transworld Systems and they will begin their collection efforts effective January 2, 2019," the letter said.

Votto said between Sept. 1, 2016 and June 30, 2018, the school district wrote off $95,508. He said the unpaid balance for the current academic year is $45,859.

"The District lunch program cannot continue to lose revenue," Votto said.

Lois Clemens, whose grandson attends an elementary school in Cranston, told NBC 10 she sees both sides of the debate.

“Yeah, $45,000 is a lot of money for the school district to not have, but then on the other hand I know what it’s like not to have enough money,” Clemens said.

Lunch at a public elementary school in Cranston costs $2.50 per day. For middle school and high school students, it’s $3.25 a day. Votto said parents who owe $20 or more and who haven’t paid off the balance within 60 days will receive a letter from the collection agency starting next year.

Students who owe money for multiple meals won’t go hungry, the district said. Students will continue to get the same entrĂ©e that paying students receive. In the past, the district offered students who owed money an alternative meal - a sunny butter sandwich, fruit and milk -- but stopped doing that when it realized parents still weren’t paying the lunch bills.

Votto said, “We’re feeding the children. That’s not in dispute. We offer free breakfast.”

The school district told NBC 10 it wanted to take a soft approach and said the collection agency will not be calling parents, but rather mailing them.

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