Parents in Salt Lake City are outraged this week after their children’s lunches were thrown away right in front of them because school officials realized that some of them were behind on their payments.
According to reports, around 40 students at Uintah Elementary went to retrieve their lunches but had them immediately taken and thrown away.
"She took my lunch away and said, 'Go get a milk,’” said student Sophia Isom. "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.’”
Isom’s mother says that the school was completely out of line and could have handled the situation an entirely different way.
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"I think it’s despicable," said Isom’s mom Erica Lukes. "These are young children that shouldn’t be punished or humiliated for something the parents obviously need to clear up."
Jason Olsen, a spokesperson for the Salt Lake City School District, said that cafeteria workers weren’t able to see which students owed money until they were given their lunches, and then when they figured out who had balances on their accounts, the lunches were taken away. Olsen says that the lunched were thrown out because once food is served to one child, it can’t be served to another.
"Something’s not working, and that’s what the school and child-nutrition department are going to work on together," said Olsen. “This can be easily prevented. We need to make sure proper notification goes out to the parents and they have time to put money in the accounts. If students were humiliated and upset, that’s very unfortunate and not what we wanted to happen."
Despite the district’s explanation, parents of the affected students are not planning to be quite about this.
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"You would think in a public school system your child wouldn’t be turned away from lunch," said Lukes, "especially when people usually settle their balances."
It’s reported that all the students whose lunches were discarded were given a piece of fruit and a carton of milk instead. Children say that one of the cafeteria workers cried during the incident but couldn’t do anything to stop it.