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Children humiliated when school leaders take lunches, throw them away

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Salt Lake City school officials apologized and vowed to better communicate with parents after dozens of students whose school lunch accounts had zero or negative balances had their lunches taken from them, only to be tossed out in the garbage.

According to FOX 13, the school says it had notified parents in a phone call or email on Monday that their children’s balances were in the deficit and that they would only be served fruit and milk if money was not added to the account.

However, some parents said they never received the notification. Students go through the food line prior to paying for the food, so the lunches they had gotten while in line were taken from them and thrown away, replaced by the promised fruit and milk.

Jason Olsen, Communication Director for Salt Lake City School District issued a statement that was part explanation and part apology.

“This situation could have and should have been handled in a different manner. We apologize. We are also investigating what type of notification parents may or may not have received prior to this week. The schools say they inform students when they go through the lunch line if they have a low balance. They say they also send notes home in the student’s Monday folders. However, when contacted Monday or Tuesday, many parents were surprised by the news. The district has specific guidelines for school kitchen managers on how parents should be notified, and we are currently investigating to see if these guidelines were followed correctly.

We understand the feelings of upset parents and students who say this was an embarrassing and humiliating situation. We again apologize and commit to working with parents in rectifying this situation and to ensuring students are never treated in this manner again.”

CLICK HERE to see FOX 13’s report that includes a mother upset that the school was hung-up on a $2.00 lunch.

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73 comments

  • bonnie

    This happened about 4 years ago to my son.. I got the policy changed!! 4 years ago!!! They did this to my son and I was enraged. I was told by my son they took his lunch from him and threw it away!! Because I had forgotten to load money on his account. I called the school, no one could come to the phone, I called the cafeteria, no one was able to talk to me, o called the board, the guy that handled the money, his secretary said it was there policy. His argument was, this is a business. That is your child went to the mall to eat he could not expect free meal. I ask him, did you go hungry today? Did you get up at 5:30 am? Ride a bus to school, sit in a class for hours, knowing your lunch was coming, only to have 20 mins to stand in a long line and shovel down food. Then get to the check out and be rmbaraced and have you tray taken and thrown away in front of you and your piers* , he said he could of Went to the office to call u?. I said, did u not hear the part about 30 min? Even if I did fly up there, he would of missed his lunch and went back to class. You want every child to succeed, yet you expect them to be stuck in a class all day with no means to take care of a problem? This is a kid! If he was out in the public of course he would pay his way. But he’s stuck at school with no way to take care of something he has no control over!! There are ppl that get free and reduced. There is nothing wrong with that! Been there, done that! There ate ppl that can pay there way and ppl that struggle. There are homeless ppl , and people that fall somewhere in the cracks. Yes, you have a Jo. And bills to pay. But if you want the child to succeed, and pass the test, class, and graduate… Feed the child.!! Soo I wrote the mayor, the senator, the governor. All no replys or sorry we can’t help. Even the PTA did not want to stand behind me.. so I called the news. I use to work for the school cafeteria, I know that the government gives free to the schools, peanut butter, butter, cheese, they have to use it to continue to receive it. There is no reason they could not serve pb&j or grilled cheese.
    So after being on the news. There now is a program for delinquent account . The cafeteria lady has a phone, she tries to contact a parent and there are 3 free meals. After that there are no free meals but the child eats, pb&j or cheese sandwich!!!

  • Glasstra

    The solution is too simple for people to see. When I was in school (early 70’s, Denver), we bought lunch cards. When you entered the lunch line, your card would get punched. When you were out of punches available punches, you went hungry. Student and parent responsibility. You can bet, when we neared the end of the card, we let our parents know.

      • S. Erwin

        Julie, not everyone owns a smart phone or even a cell phone for that matter. Some people, believe it or not (sarcasm inserted here) don’t even own a computer. Yeah hard to believe huh? Not everyone is connected to all the technology this world has to offer, which is why it’s just plain stupid to throw away food, while kids go hungry. No wonder our country is in a deficit. They waste so much money, rather than investing it in our future. They don’t have a problem sending free food to other countries though.

  • tyree robinson

    this pisses me off so much. so instead of giving the kids tge lunch they throw them away. thats so dumb. you shoulda have it to them anyways instead of wasting it. this world is so corrupt. help our souls lord.

  • Amber Givens

    We as a nation are against BULLYING, and then the people who are suppose to stop the bullying and harassment do THIS? My goodness people, get a clue, are we going to quibble over less than $5 and embarrass a teenager in front of their peers? Every one of those children’s parents should notice the “offenders” in a social situation (restaurant) and walk up and throw away their food, making others notice, and say, “Sorry, you are in a negative on your account.” See how fast they do it again to the children in front of their peers. Show them what it is like to be embarrassed.

  • Melinda AidensMama Harrell

    Fruit and milk? How is that balanced or healthy as a complete lunch? In reply to comments, how is a PB&J sandwhich healthy? My lord, when my kids grow up, I will be packing their lunches, of they aren’t homeschooled. As for the school, they should face neglect and medical charges, and a new policy should be put in place. The person who threw the lunches away should be fired. I have kids to support and bills to pay, but I quit a job once when I was asked to mistreat someone in my care. They should’ve done the same but since they didn’t, they should be fired. Absolutely outraging! Schools today are so horrible. They don’t teach a damned thing and mistreat kids left and right. Shameful.

  • Angie

    Free lunches? really. I don’t agree at all the way this was handled, but it is our responsibility as parents – rich, middle class, poor to make sure that child doesn’t go hungry. Get a job, make a sandwich, the government isn’t responsible for your child nor our tax dollars, The child should have never been punished. I get a note sent home, an email and a call if they get low. The School needs to get a better method. BUT I don’t think the answer is free. Have you looked at the school budgets? The deficit? And we want to add free lunch? If a child can’t be provided for there are free lunch programs to sign up for, But if you can afford it why are you wanting something for nothing?

  • Lisa Bair

    These people should be ashamed of themselves. To throw out food that was perfectly good. To send kids away with only milk or fruit when they already have been served a full tray is stupid and wasteful! How can they sleep at night. So many ways that this could have been handled and these people are caretakers of our children. Also if you make enough food that you can carelessly toss it in the trash when there are homeless people that would gladly eat your leftovers. Lastly you all need to remember the Golden Rule, you may find yourself hungry someday. Shame on you!

  • Sheila Adkins

    The government has a program that supplies school districts with funding for breakfast and lunch for every child in the school so no one knows if a child does not have money to pay. Many children are too ashamed to get free lunches if the other students sees this and may make fun of them. School districts just need to apply for these funds. Every child should be fed if there is food. But I guess this school would rather see food in the garbage than to feed a hungry child. SHAME ON THEM!!!!!!

  • Tammy Weddington

    Shame on these responsible I run a middle school kitchen you should feed the children anyway.Communication people talk to principal and counselors have them help finding the problem there are programs available. Commodities are good resources use them cut your food cost school districts can save alot doing this. A good cook can be very resourcful. If your not going home withh an empty stomach the children definitely should not

  • Tammy Weddington

    The children are not resonsible if parent or guardian has not paid if you can take a child’s food and throw in trash you do not belong in school foodservice there are other ways. The children should always be fed Those responsible must of come from money and never worried about wwhere thier next meal was coming from.

  • Traci Martin

    Well, sad to say that this happened to our son in Bedford County, TN as well. The worst part is that we added money ($20) to his account through an online payment early Monday morning. At lunch time he had made a plate lunch and they took it away from him and gave him a milk and a p’nut butter sandwhich. The school never called me or let him call me. He was embarrassed and hungry. It did not state anywhere on the site about paying online that our payment would not post til 9 hours later!!!!! We went to the schoolboard. NOTHING CHANGED. It makes me sick to know that we live in the United States and our kids get their lunch taken away at school. If you are just going to throw it away then why couldn’t they eat it anyway????? Its wasteful and humiliating to kids.

    • jlang1546

      This is shocking to hear about how the school is treating the kids like that! They rather throw the food in the trash instead of let the kids have it.
      STUPID, IRRATIONAL way to humiliate and embarrass the kid and let him go hungry at the same time have no problem dumping the whole hot food tray in the trash. The individual who do such action is immoral and follow an immoral system!
      Is this a policy from the government? Is this how the school district monitor the lunch budget? You don’t pay so your ready to eat food goes to the trash! It is a win to the dumpster but a loss to the district and a hungry child! Unbelievable mentally disturbed policy!
      Lets our kids go hungry but feed the world!
      Lets our kids go hungry but dump the food in the trash!
      Lets our kids go hungry but feed the inmates 3 full meals a day!
      America can spend trillions on war but can not feed our own country!

  • Rami Xox

    I blame both the parents and the school. The parents should been notified no more funds. In Parkhill, we always knew how the balance and acted accordingly. The school should of sent emails or notes to the parents informing them. So, i will file it under miscommunication.

  • Rami Xox

    How about each and everyone of you go to any school and put $100.00 once a month to cover situations like this. So, now lazy parents now know, they can send their kids to school without any funds, and they will know they will be fed. The school is not a feeding station, its learning center. It is your (as parent) responsibility to make sure your kids are being take care of. Stop the blame game. We always paid and made sure our kids had the funds to cover their lunches.

    • Tammy Weddington

      To work in a school you must have compassion and you not aware of how many children go home to no food in the house. In schools there are children from all walks of life. It’s hard to fix their home life but we can make sure they are fed. You must of always had food in your refrigerator or you would understand. Some children come to school in the dead of winter with small jackets on they don’t even have a winter coat. So unless you as a child went through hardships of a poor family or neglectful parent you have no right to even imagine what it’s like to go with an empty stomach.

    • S. Erwin

      Rami, what gives you the right to call all these parents lazy? You don’t know what the circumstances were behind why they didn’t pay on time. The point here is food was wasted while kids went hungry. End of story. Yes, the school is a learning station but how do they expect a child to learn on an empty stomach and what kind of lesson are they teaching when they can just waste food while a child goes hungry? If our government is to blame, then we need to get some different people elected into office.

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