A Utah school is under scrutiny after cafeteria staff binned the lunches of forty elementary children. According to an article in Think Progress, the students had fallen behind on lunch payments at Uintah Elementary, in Salt Lake City.
Many parents said they weren't even aware they were in arrears, though school officials claimed they made phone calls days before to inform families of the debts owing.
Instead of withholding the lunches in the first place, cafeteria workers served lunches then removed them from certain children, giving them milk and a piece of fruit in lieu.
“So she took my lunch away and said, ‘Go get a milk,’” said a fifth-grader named Sophia. “I came back and asked, ‘What’s going on?’ Then she handed me an orange. She said, ‘You don’t have any money in your account, so you can’t get lunch.’”
Though the school district has since apologized for their actions, parents are fuming over the “traumatic and humiliating” incident. Apparently, this sort of thing has happened before to low-income families—with one Texas student missing out on lunch because he was thirty cents short.
This story leaves a bad taste in my mouth for so many reasons, not least of which because all children deserve to eat—period. Children who don't eat, don't learn. And children who don't learn, don't thrive. It's that simple.
I recently volunteered in my son's classroom and made him share his snack with a boy who had none. I made sure he got to sit and eat with his friends, then sent him to drink from the fountain. It defies belief that school staff could be so heartless to try to teach parents a fiscal lesson by depriving children of a basic human need.
How should schools deal with lunch financing? Discuss.
Read another recent school-related incident that left us shaking our heads.