As of last summer, more than 17,000 students in Columbus, Ohio, schools owed lunch money, according to the Columbus Dispatch. The news source added that some of the worst offenders were $300 to $400 in the red.
Over the past few months, the city has recouped between $80,000 to $90,000 of the nearly $950,000 owed without help from collections, instead using phone calls and personal contact. However, some officials believe more money could have been mustered if school board members hadn't displayed opposition to a proposal made by the district's audit committee last summer. The August recommendation included limiting students to five unpaid lunches before action was taken by the district, after which elementary school students would receive a less expensive alternative to a hot lunch and middle and high school students would be denied food until they paid money owed. Indebted students would also receive automated phone call reminders. However, the proposal was denied because some committee members "didn't like punishing kids for the shortcomings of their parents." The Boston Globe reported a similar issue at Wellesley schools earlier this month, as an audit revealed the city had nearly $170,000 in lunch debt.