'Lunch Shaming' Policy Humiliates Kids & Drives School Cafeteria Worker to Quit Her Job

school lunchThe thought of any child not having enough money for a hot lunch is heartbreaking, but the thought of a child being humiliated in front of all his friends in the process of being denied that lunch is practically unbearable. So unbearable, in fact, that when Pennsylvania cafeteria worker Stacy Koltiska was forced to take away the meals of two students students with overdrawn lunch accounts because of a new school policy, she not only posted on Facebook about the experience -- she quit her job.


Koltiska was an employee at Wylandville Elementary School for two years, but resigned after only a few weeks into the current school year over what she calls "lunch shaming," or the practice of denying kids hot meals if their parents owe the school $25 or more for lunch. According to the policy, children who owe are to be given a sandwich in place of a hot meal, but according to Koltiska, the term "sandwich" is misleading. In her Facebook post, she wrote:

You don't know is that they are being given One Piece of Cheese on Bread. This isn't even being toasted. Yet they are still being charged the FULL PRICE of a HOT LUNCH that is being DENIED to them.

Koltiska then details a sad encounter from the first week of school:

The first week of school on Friday, I had to take a little first grade boys chicken and give him this 'cheese sandwich'. I will never forget the look on his face and then his eyes welled up with tears. I was going to resign on Monday but my mother passed away on Sunday so I forgot about it until yesterday when it happened again. I had the same sick feeling so today I resigned. What makes this even MORE SICKENING is that we throw so much food away EVERYDAY. So our children are being served cheese, being charged and denied the hot food that we then throw away.

That's right: The hot meals Koltiska was forced to take away from these kids were then thrown in the garbage -- again, according to school policy. Which makes sense how, exactly? 

More from CafeMom: Lawmaker Wants Poor Kids to Sweep Floors for Their School Lunch

According to CBS News, Canon McMillan School District Superintendent Matthew Daniels insists it "has never been the intent with the adoption of this policy to shame or embarrass a child" and that the policy is strictly about collecting money owed; since it was put into place, the number of families in deficit has gone from over 300 to 66.

Still, how is literally throwing food in the garbage saving anybody any money? Seems more about spite than anything else. It's definitely not about compassion or even common sense.

As a mother, I will say that imagining how those kids felt when their food was taken away from them -- in front of all their peers -- just makes me want to sob. And I know this problem of making kids feel bad about being poor and hungry isn't limited to this one Pennsylvania district. Schools across the country have similar policies, which means kids across the country are going hungry.

More from CafeMom: Special Needs Child Forced to Go Hungry When School Throws Out His Lunch

I understand that schools have budgets and people need to be held accountable for their debts but there's got to be another way besides starving and humiliating kids. We need to have more (and better) free and reduced lunch programs for low-income families. We need for families not to feel ashamed of taking advantage of existing programs. We need more compassionate people like Koltiska working in our schools, and we need for those people to not be punished for doing the right thing.

Above all, we need to make sure our kids are fed!



Image via Meriweather Lewis Elementary School/Flickr

Read More >