An elementary school in Salt Lake City, Utah has come under fire after it threw out the lunches of up to 40 kids this week because there were negative balances in their school lunch accounts. “This situation could have and should have been handled in a different manner,” the district said in a statement posted to its Facebook page. “We apologize.”
District spokesman Jason Olsen said that the cafeteria workers could not tell which students were in debt until the lunches had already been handed out because the computer for payment is at the end of the line. According to Olsen, the lunches were thrown out because they can’t be served to another student. The children were given fruit and milk in its place.
Naturally, the parents of these students are furious.
Mother Erica Lukes told KSL she was “blindsided” when her daughter, a fifth grader, described what a school district official told her: “You don’t have any money in your account, so you can’t get lunch.”
“There were a lot of tears,” Lukes said, “and it was pretty upsetting for them.”
Lukes went on to explain that she and other parents she had spoken to had no idea that there were problems with their children’s accounts. The school claims that they sent out warnings on Monday about low balances.
“We understand the feelings of upset parents and students who say this was an embarrassing and humiliating situation,” the district said. “We again apologize and commit to working with parents in rectifying this situation and to ensuring students are never treated in this manner again.”
I just don’t understand how an adult, regardless of protocol, can see fit to snatch food out of a child’s hands. What’s most upsetting is that the food was thrown out anyway, so why not just let the child eat? Milk and fruit cannot be constituted as a substantial replacement for lunch. Children are in school for upwards of six hours. Many times there will be physical activity involved in their days, especially in elementary school. How can they think that milk and fruit would be sufficient nourishment? And what of those kids who maybe didn’t get breakfast? Regardless of the rules, those adults should be ashamed of themselves.