or say

cheese

The York City school board is trying to teach students there's no such thing as a free lunch "¦ by giving them free lunches.

The district launched a new policy this week to curb the number of students who file through the cafeteria line and simply don't pay, a problem that has been taking a bite out of its food budget.

From now on, students will get three free lunches, after which they'll have to fork over their entree if they can't pay the cashier.

They won't be going away hungry, however.

In place of that tasty pizza slice, mouth-watering roast turkey breast or delicious chicken taco, they'll get - a cheese sandwich.

Hold on.

This isn't as harsh as it sounds. The students still will receive the rest of their meals: milk and a fruit or vegetable.

That's not exactly unhealthy - and the price can't be beat.

The idea, though, is that students will be a little less pleased with the bland offering and convince their parents to provide funds to cover the wider menu.

Yes, it's an unfortunate fact that some families can't afford to pay, and district officials say a significant number of those students stiffing the lunch lady actually qualify for state- and federally funded free or reduced-price lunches.

The parents simply haven't bothered to fill out the necessary forms - and until now, there was no consequence if they didn't.

"Our primary goal with this new policy, which is standard in school districts around the country, is to encourage families to complete the meal applications and take advantage of the financial assistance that is available to them," Superintendent Eric Holmes said in a statement.

It's entirely reasonable for the district to expect to be reimbursed for the lunches it provides - either from students' parents or through the National School Lunch Program.

This new policy makes that expectation clear while still meeting students' basic nutritional needs.

The district will notify parents if their child receives a cheese sandwich and will tell them the balance they owe.

It will be up to them to whether their child gets to sample next month's chicken and sausage jambalaya.