Khrystyne Bento walked into a meeting at the Jenks Junior High school in Pawtucket to talk about a pervading problem in the school system. The issue involves hunger, politics, and shaming of certain low income students. The issue at hand?


The superintendent, the school committee, some staff and the group from Resist Hate RI met to deal with an issue about school lunches. “Children who supposedly owe money on their school lunch are having their hot lunches thrown away and given a sandwich as a substitute instead. If a child with a balance is having their hot meal thrown away, that cost 1.80 and given a sandwich that costs .40 that only means that a hungry kid just costed taxpayers .40 cents more than a kid who got fed???? This is getting absurd.” Khrystyne noted in frustration during our interview. “Some of the children are not getting lunch simply because of a glitch in the system that says they owe, when in reality they don’t. No one is looking into any of it.”

The meeting allowed for little public input. Khrystyne broadcasted it live.

When asked about how the meeting went, Khrystyne related, “It was disturbing enough for me to walk out when immediately following public input about children not being fed, they went on to announce a new hire of a third assistant to the superintendent. Few of us got up and walked out, we realized they can’t address us at this meeting. I asked that they add this issue to their agenda for next meeting so we can get answers. They listened and asked a few questions but they did not respond during public input…..To be honest one committee member in particular seemed like he couldn’t wait to move onto another subject.”

Meeting at Joseph Jenks Junior High School about school lunch

Council meeting, Pawtucket, RI

As a Boston resident I remember paying for school lunch as a kid. Lunch monitors were mean… but I never had my lunch thrown away in front of me, nor did I see any other kids have that happen to them. But I do know that to avoid shaming kids Boston simply opened up free school lunches to everyone to avoid children going hungry because of the family perhaps not wanting to admit that they needed help.

Although I grew up in the projects and many others I went to elementary school with did as well, the “your family is so poor” jokes were as popular as the your mama jokes… at lunch come to think of it.

In any case. My children now receive breakfast (if they wanted it) and lunch for free. I take full advantage of this because as taxpayers, we pay into that system. I use it as a convenience rather than a need as my kids are not low income by any means. But it does seem like Boston’s solution is a fairly easy one.

This makes the situation in Pawtucket all the more alarming.

What would bring a school system meant to support the next generation to have a practice where after handing a hot lunch to a child, they would then throw that lunch in the garbage? To teach a lesson of some sort?
“Their excuse is always money. But they get plenty on federal funding, grants and city funding besides the half million they get from the parents who pay for school lunches. They are still claiming that it’s not enough funding.” Khrystyne said. “There is no true leadership or minority in the administrations to advocate for the diverse population. Cape Verdeans specifically have no avenues to help when transitioning to the American culture, no liaison to help families adjust, no centers or programs to assist with the unique needs of the Cape Verdean communities. Nowhere to turn to get help understanding the need to fill out certain forms in order for children to get a lunch.”

I mentioned to Khrystyne that in Boston lunches were free for all in the Public School system.
“Here in Pawtucket apparently they rather it go on a trash can. The funding supposedly covers breakfast and lunch. Breakfast is completely free but not all children go early to get it. So it makes no sense to only feed some free for breakfast but not be able to feed all lunch, some of these kids, the only meal they get is school lunch.”

Khrystyne related another instance which seemed ridiculous. “There’s a student whose parents owe money to NC school system before they moved to RI. That child will not be given lunch because of a debt in another state! That’s crazy, Pawtucket has no entitlement to money owed to NC. They should not have the right to deny this child a lunch due to a bill not incurred in RI. This superintendent claims there are only 50-60 students that has lunch denied to them, that a really low number not to be able to accommodate. Our tax dollars already pay for these lunches up front so why throw them out? The group set up a fundraiser that raised over 1,500.00 to help pay the lunch bills down for children in one school, the superintendent bashed them and tried telling people it’s a scam, she is not looking for a solution, she seems to be enjoying the problem. That is very disturbing. Any lunch lady following those policies is heartless and our children need more compassionate staff, leadership, school committee and administration.”

“We will be cleaning house with the next election, the entire school committee needs to be changed and be Much more diverse, we as community leaders are already working on running someone new against every single politician that has allowed this to go on for as long as it has.”

A petition has been started which you can sign here.