School Takes Away Hungry Kids' Lunches Because Parents Failed to Pay Bill

Dozens of elementary school students had their lunches taken away from them and thrown in the trash on Tuesday. No, it wasn’t part of some Let’s Move initiative to combat childhood obesity -- it was because their parents didn’t have their accounts up to date.

Parents of the offended students at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City were understandably upset, as their children were humiliated in front of their peers for something they had nothing to do with. Some parents claim they didn’t even know they were behind on their accounts.

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Erica Lukes, who believed she was all paid up, is the mom of an 11-year-old daughter who had her lunch taken and thrown in the trash. “It was pretty traumatic and humiliating," she said. "I think it’s despicable … these are young children that shouldn’t be punished or humiliated for something the parents obviously need to clear up."

The child-nutrition department of the Salt Lake City District apparently became aware that there were a “large number of students who owed money for lunches,” and sent someone to the school to withhold the food from the kids whose parents owed money.

Problem was that they could only see the account balance after the kids had picked up their trays, and once a kid touches a tray of cafeteria food, it can’t be served to another kid, so into the trash it went. The lunchless kids were offered fruit and milk instead.

What the heck? The district says they tried to reach parents via phone to notify them of the unpaid bills on Monday and Tuesday but weren’t able to reach everybody before they seized the kids’ lunches.

Talk about a frazzled mom’s worst nightmare! Geez, just because you forgot to pay the school lunch bill, your kid is going to be punished? How is that fair? I think I would be totally traumatized if I were one of those kids, and horrified as a parent.

After realizing they had made a mistake (thank you public backlash!), spokesman Jason Olsen posted to the district’s Facebook page:

"This situation could have and should have been handled in a different manner. We apologize … 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."

Let's hope so.

How would you feel if you found out your kid had his lunch thrown away because you forgot to pay a bill?


Image via Laura Taylor/Flickr

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