Why I Gave Your Kid A Cheese Sandwich When He Forgot His Lunch

Why I Gave Your Kid A Cheese Sandwich When He Forgot His Lunch
photo credit: Kraft Singles American Cheese via photopin (license)

Do you ever catch the news blurbs from time to time regarding lunch ladies shaming deadbeat students with a cheese sandwich?

Those probably piss you off.  Me too.

I've got to tell you I'm #TeamLunchLady.  Those little bastards got what was coming to them.

I enjoy reading the comments from the people freaking the flip out about shaming a kid with a cheese sandwich.  "All the kids know so-and-so hasn't paid his bill" - and naturally - it's the mother's fault - always the mother, right?

Bullshit.  You know whose fault it is?  The kid with the cheese sandwich on his tray.

I used to be one of those "give-the-deadbeat-a-cheese-sandwich" bullies, and it is imperative for you to know I considered myself part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

The problem, of course, was kids racking up a hefty lunch tab.  The solution?  A cheese sandwich.

When the kid's bill was upwards of $20 bucks - I put the squeeze on them - and nine times out of ten - getting a few slices of cheese on two slices of white - was enough to get the moocher to pony up at the cashier window the very next day with a check from home.

You want to know how we got the cash quicker - pulling the "cheese sandwich trick" on hot dog day.  The line was so long the kids needed a number to get a chance to use the office phone to call home.

The particular school I worked at had an enrollment of 825 students and 12 of those kids - a little over 1.4% - qualified for a free/reduced lunch.  This private school was situated in a relatively affluent suburb - lunch menus were sent out monthly and student orders and payment were received prior to placing an all-school order with our vendor.

As a rule - we always ordered five extra lunches for the kids whose mothers "forgot" to give them their lunch, and we also counted on extra lunches from absentee students.  Daily - we had about 10 extras to play with.

Reduced/free lunch students were issued the same kind of ticket a kid paying full price received.  The only person who knew who actually paid and whose parents filled out a free/reduced app was the lady in charge of the books.

(Further disclosure - the 12 kids qualifying for free/reduced lunch ordered and paid their lunch bill in full the month before it was ordered.  And 99.9% of the time - those kids ordered every.single.day.  It was rare any of the twelve would show up on any particular day "without a lunch".)

In fact, it was rare that any of the other 813 kids at the school would "forgot his/her lunch" - and when they did - we always offered them a meal - from the extras we ordered and the absentee kids not there to claim their meal.  At the end of the day, we would send home a "bill" - for the kid to deliver to his parents - it was a cute little note with an "Oooops, I forgot my lunch" title in 16 pt font with a couple lines describing what we gave the kid  - at the end we asked the kid to bring $2.25 the next day to cover the bill.

Most of the kids with forgetful mothers in the crowd usually returned the very next day with the money and a note from mom thanking us for feeding their kid.

The majority of our IOU crowd were kids who decided once they got to the lunchroom one of three things:

1.  The lunch mom packed didn't look as good as what Billy next to him bought from the lunch lady.

2.  It was hot dog day - WTF was his mom thinking - she didn't order TODAY??  I'm taking matters into my own hands.

3.  It was hot dog day - and mom only ordered ONE - I'm going to buy an extra if they have one.

My task was tracking the "non-payers" - and the only thing that hurt more than telling a kid he had to have a cheese sandwich for lunch was nursing my sore, claw-like formed hand from writing names on IOU lists, and sending "I bought a lunch today - please send $" notes, and the subsequent reminder notes I'd have to send day after day after god blessed day.

Bills and reminder notes and even the final notice (where I explained if said tab wasn't taken care of the kid was getting a cheese sandwich the next time he forgot his lunch from home unless his debt was paid in full) were more than likely still in the kids' desk or locker 0r at the bottom of their backpack or, if my suspicions were correct, filed in the garbage can as soon as they received them.

The majority of our IOU crowd didn't take home the notes for one of three reasons:

1.  They couldn't tell mom they threw the lunch she made them out and got a hot lunch instead.

2.  They couldn't tell mom they told the lunch lady their mom "forgot" to send a lunch with them today - when the truth was it was hot dog day and their lunch box was hidden in their locker and they decided to take matters into their own hands.

3.  They couldn't tell mom they ate TWO lunches.

We used to let the non-payers slide.  But, it got to be too much.  At the end of one particular month - the total owed was upwards of a thousand dollars. And, this is the reason we tracked unpaid lunches.

Thus the cheese sandwich trick came into play.  And, let me tell you, that SOB worked like a charm.

Nothing forces the hand and the subsequent confession of a moocher quicker than the prospect of a cheese sandwich will.

And, the Lunch lady knows this.

It is not the lunch lady's fault your kid had to eat a cheese sandwich today.

If you knew about your kid's bill and didn't pay for it - it is your fault the kid had to chase his cheese sandwich with water from the drinking fountain.  Own it.

And if the kid conveniently "forgot" to bring home the notices letting you know he/she owed money - the lunch lady hopes the cheese sandwich and water from the fountain will make him/her think twice before tossing the notes in the trash next time.

If eating a cheese sandwich makes your kid feel guilty - then its job is working.

Sorry, but the grubby little freeloader has treated him/herself to at least TEN freebies before getting the ax - a lady has to draw the line somewhere.

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