School lunch policies are designed to make sure every child gets fed, regardless of their ability to pay.
But one parent says those policies are too lenient and end up hurting taxpayers.
Greg Miller recalled the days when he and his wife made lunches for their kids in the Snohomish schools.
"They certainly didn't go hungry," Miller said. "They had plenty of food every day."
But sometimes one of the kids forgot their lunch. Sometimes they tossed the brown bag in the trash and opted for the hot lunch served in the cafeteria -- without paying for it.
School policies in Snohomish and a growing number of other districts mandate that any student who asks for a hot lunch be given one -- regardless of whether they pay.
"We don't want any child to be ostracized or pointed out for being on free and reduced lunch. They deserve the meal just like anybody else," said district spokesperson Kristin Foley. "Sometimes people take advantage of that."
After receiving $150 in bills for food they didn't authorize and their son didn't qualify for, the Millers told Glacier Peak High School to stop allowing their son to have hot meals.
Otherwise, it would be carte blanche in the cafeteria.
"Would you hand your kids your Visa and say go for it? I wouldn't," said Miller. "That isn't responsible parenting. I would expect support from my school system in responsible parenting."
But the school kept feeding the boy against his parents' wishes, saying it is their duty to err on the side of hungry students.
"We don't know what all the circumstances are," said Foley. "Maybe the child isn't being fed. Maybe the child forgot his lunch. Maybe the child is just super hungry. It is our value system that we feed the child."
Meantime, the monthly bills kept coming for the Millers, who paid them, but many others do not.
Snohomish schools finished the year $84,000 in debt because of the lunch issue.
But that district isn't alone.
The Edmonds school district, which follows a similar policy, ended up about $100,000 in the red at the end of the school year because of unpaid lunches. The overwhelming majority of that is owed by families who do not qualify for the federal free and reduced lunch program.
"Schools can't control how the kids eat," said Foley. "That's between them and their parents. We notify parents as soon as there is an unpaid balance."
"Hold the kid accountable. Don't hold me accountable," counters Miller, "because if you are going to let the student make that call then you find a way to hold that kid responsible for his or her decision."
The Millers paid their bills, but many more have not, leaving taxpayers to eat the losses.