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USDA Says Schools Can't Refuse Students Lunch Following Salt Lake City Incident

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Most will probably remember the incident at a Salt Lake City elementary school in which school administrators disposed of the lunches of students whose parents owed money to the school. When Opposing Views first reported on this story, many were outraged that the school chose to deal with the issue like that, and since then, the administration has been doing damage control.

Now, the United States Department of Agriculture has reportedly put in its two cents, asserting that school systems should not refuse their students lunch just because their parents have not paid their accounts.

“Under Secretary of Agriculture Kevin Concannon says in a letter to state school chiefs that schoolchildren should not be subjected to undue embarrassment and stigma when they have outstanding balances in their school lunch accounts,” reports NPR’s Howard Berkes. “That’s a response to the incident in Salt Lake City last month when school lunches were taken from children and tossed in the trash due to unpaid bills. Parents at the school complained they weren’t adequately notified. Concannon urged school districts to adopt clear procedures for payment and notification of overdue balances. The Salt Lake City school board is seeking an independent audit of the incident, and plans to spend nearly $50,000 for public relations help.”

Fallout from this situation still continues as Salt Lake City School District attempts to build itself back up. As Berkes reported, the district has reached out to a public relations firm, planning to spend $49,999 on help with its image.

"We spend money on what we think we need in order to improve the overall operation of the district and sometimes that means you have to spend on things that are not directly involved in the classroom,” said Heather Bennett, school board vice president. “Many districts in the state have multiple people in public information, and we’ve only got one.”

With the federal government now involved in this matter, many hope that schools will no longer throw away students' lunches due to unpaid accounts.

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