CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio (WJW) – A free meal in the cafeteria might be the best or only meal that day for some students. 

Ruthann Livecchi, a proud parent of two students in the Cuyahoga Falls School District, says she has seen it first-hand. 

“For some kids, that’s their only safe space. That’s the only place that they eat every single day, it’s the only place they are going to get a meal,” shared Livecchi. 

But now, Livecchi tells Fox 8 their school district has a new rule limiting free meals for students without any money in their account. 

“I’ve talked to quite a few parents and people are absolutely disgusted with it. Whether they are in this district or not, no one agrees with the decision,” said Livecchi.

In a letter emailed to parents on Sunday, the Cuyahoga Falls City School District sharing their board of education recently approved a new policy. 

Beginning April 3rd, students with a negative account balance will be given 6 days of free meals.

If money isn’t put into the account after that point, the child is out of luck.

Christina Thompson, a member of the school’s PTA and parent to two students, believes the new rule is flawed. 

Even though the school system does have a free meal program, Thompson knows plenty of families that don’t meet the qualifications to sign up and are still struggling to pay for lunches. 

“I’ve seen it from kindergarten, all the way up. They are showing up without money in their accounts, they are hungry,” explained Thompson. 

The school’s superintendent explained in the letter that the reason for this new policy is that the school system is no longer able to afford the debt they pay for free meals. 

Thompson found that hard to believe. 

“Where is the money going? The new school is being built but come on, how much does a sandwich cost?” Thompson questioned.

The school district released the following statement:

“At Cuyahoga Falls City Schools District, we recognize the importance of every child receiving
nutritious meals because it is a vital part of setting our children up for success in the classroom.
Student meal debt has continued to increase since the start of the school year. As a result of
these challenging circumstances, our district administration recommended new guidelines to
help address this problem.
Leading up to this decision, Cuyahoga Falls City School District personnel have implemented
several strategies to assist families in keeping their meal accounts funded. We have fed every
child, regardless of account status, up to this point. In addition, we have communicated with
families about our free and reduced meal program and provided assistance to every family with
the application process. Every week, emails and phone calls are made to families reminding
them of their account status, and school staff has also made personal calls to families.
Recognizing that the Cuyahoga Falls City School District is not alone in this post-pandemic
struggle, we have been advocating for universal free lunch programs with our state and federal
legislators and encouraged other districts to do the same. On Thursday, March 23, 2023, our
Nutrition and Food Service Supervisor, Chef Bill Bailey, testified in Columbus to the Secondary
Education Finance Subcommittee to ensure that our state budget includes funding for school
meals. In addition, Bailey was part of 40 school nutrition professionals from Ohio who traveled
to Washington DC to meet with members of Congress to advocate for student meal programs.
Locally, we provide our families with food assistance by partnering with the Ben Curtis Family
Foundation to provide food and toiletry items to families, as well as partnering with local food
We continue to explore ways in which we can provide meals for our families. We are also
grateful for the many community members who have reached out to assist us with this situation.
We encourage all families who need assistance to reach out to their student’s principal or the
Nutrition and Food Service Department.”