Local restaurant pays off elementary students’ lunch debt so they can enjoy ‘Ice Cream Friday’

MIDDLETOWN — A local restaurant has paid off lunch debts at a Lebanon elementary school so that every student gets the chance to participate in “Ice Cream Friday.”

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Mz. Jade’s SoulFood, located on Central Avenue in Middletown, said in a social media post that it donated $411.15 to Donovan Elementary School to take care of the total balance.

The school shared details about the first “Ice Cream Friday” on social media Thursday. In the post, the district said students must have money in their account to purchase an ice cream.

“If a student has a negative balance they will not be able to purchase an ice cream even if they bring their $1 for ice cream. Students are only allowed to purchase 1 ice cream and are not permitted to buy an ice cream for a friend,” the post stated.

Since being posted at noon Thursday, thousands of comments have been written, many of which criticized the school’s rules.

Hours later, Lebanon City Schools took to the district’s social media to “clarify the information shared in that post, and to convey our apology for the way the information was communicated.”

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The district said the post was meant to share the district-wide rules on a la carte items purchased in the cafeteria, rules which they said were not new.

“Students who have a negative balance on their account are not turned away; they are provided a meal. Students are not allowed to purchase a la carte items if they have a negative balance in their meal account. Ice cream is an a la carte item,” the district’s post read. “Therefore, if students have a negative balance on their meal account, they are not allowed to purchase ice cream. It is also important to note that we do not accept cash at our cafeteria registers. We also do not permit students to purchase food for their classmates without prior parent permission.”

Officials also apologized for the way the information was communicated in the original post.

“The wording lacked empathy and sensitivity for students who have low or negative meal account balances. We work very hard to provide school lunches to students by removing barriers and eliminating the stigma associated with the lunch assistance program. The post inadvertently sent the message that we would embarrass students or turn them away for an issue outside their control. The message fell short of our values as a district and we sincerely apologize,” the district said.