“It’s a prison meal,” said Bridgitte Reid, a parent of one high school student. Sitting in her Atlantic City home, she is holding a cheese sandwich she purchased from the Atlantic City High School cafeteria, the only lunch option on Wednesday and Thursday. “They can’t do this.” Anthony Smedile

ATLANTIC CITY — School cafeteria food has a lousy rep. And this week at the resort’s high school it is monotonous, too — by design.

Cafeteria workers offered students only cheese sandwiches Wednesday and Thursday as punishment for a cell-phone-coordinated food fight that broke out during a recent lunch period.

“It’s a prison meal,” said Bridgitte Reid, a parent of one high school student. “They can’t do this.”

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Reid was so enraged after her daughter explained what she ate Wednesday, she eventually argued directly with school officials, marched into the cafeteria and snatched one of the cheese sandwiches for evidence of the “crime.”

Fredrick Nickles, the district’s superintendent, initially said he had never heard of cheese sandwiches being served, unless a student had not applied for the district’s free-and-reduced-lunch program and had nothing to eat.

However, after speaking with other school officials, Nickles reversed himself and conceded that the sandwiches are used as punishment after the students engage in a food fight.

“It’s been the policy of the school board for many years that if there is a food-throwing incident, what occurs is we will supply the basic food requirement,” Nickles said. “It’s been effective over the years.”

Students are divided into six lunch groups, with three separate lunch periods in each of the two wings of the school’s cafeteria. Nickles said only the group in which the food fight occurred was punished.

But Reid argued that her daughter was punished for something she did not do.

“Why should my student be forced to eat this?” she asked. “There’s nothing on this. No mayo, no nothing. It’s disgusting.”

The superintendent noted that students are not obligated to eat from the school’s lunch service.

“It’s unfortunate,” Nickles said, “but we are more concerned about the general population.”

Nickles said all students would return to the regular lunch menu today.

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