75% of US school districts report student meal debt. Here's what they're doing to combat the problem

A student punches in a personal code for lunch at Burke County Middle School in Waynesboro, Georgia.

(CNN)From college applications to bullying to drills for possible school shootings, students already have enough on their plate without having to worry about affording lunch.

After a Rhode Island school district recently prompted public outcry for giving cold meals to students who hadn't paid for lunches, yogurt company Chobani stepped in to relieve some of the financial pressure.
But Warwick Public Schools, which said it cracked down after accumulating $77,000 in lunch debt, was not alone in its predicament. Across the country, this issue keeps popping up.
Last month, a lunchroom employee in New Hampshire was fired for allowing a student to take food and pay the school back the next day. And in Minnesota, one high school attempted to prevent students from attending the graduation ceremony if they had lunch debt.
    Three-fourths of school districts reported having unpaid student meal debt at the end of the 2016-17 school year, the School Nutrition Association said. And most of them aren't as lucky as Warwick to receive such a generous donation.

    Student meal debt is a growing issue

    Families' inability to pay for school lunches is becoming an increasing problem.
    Of the school districts with unpaid student meal debt, 40.2% said the number of students without adequate funds increased last school year, SNA found.
    Though the median amount of unpaid student meal debt for school districts is $2,500, there's significant variance. School districts reported debt ranging from the single digits to more than $856,000, SNA said.