Boy Has 'Worst Birthday' After School 'Lunch-Shames' Him & Takes Food Away Over $9 Bill

School lunch tray
FOX 8 Cleveland

Outrageous school lunch debt stories are sadly nothing new. Too often, it seems, we read headlines involving another school district denying children lunch, unless their parents pony up to their unpaid lunch bills. A particularly sad story is coming out of Ohio this week: A 9-year-old boy was denied his school lunch on his birthday -- all because he owed a mere $9.

  • August 30 started off pretty good for Jefferson Sharpnack. After all, it was his birthday and they were serving cheesy breadsticks in the cafeteria!

    (Honestly, what more could a kid want?)

    But when he got to the end of the line, he was shocked, embarrassed, and upset when the cafeteria worker took his lunch away. 

    “I got my cheesy breadsticks and put in my number,” Jefferson told News 5, “and when I was going to check out, the lunch lady didn’t say anything, took away my cheesy breadsticks and sauce, put them over there, and took out bread on cheese from the fridge and put it on my tray.”

    It seemed he had an unpaid balance on his account -- and that meant he had to either pay up or take the "alternative" lunch given to kids with lunch deficits. So instead of warm, cheesy breadsticks, he received the cheese sandwich alternative, which was ... well, kind of a buzzkill.

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  • After school that day, Jefferson immediately ran home and told his grandmother, Diane Bailey, what happened. And she was NOT happy about it.

    The grandmother was floored by what she heard. Especially because when Jefferson recently received a note home about the lunch debt, she called administrators at Green Primary School immediately to straighten out the whole thing. (Jefferson, she told the outlet, is supposed to be on a free and reduced lunch program, along with his two brothers.)

    "In my mind, he didn't owe anything," Bailey told the station. "I owed the money, the parents, the school district."

    But after her call, she assumed her grandson was in good standing, and she was surprised to learn how the whole thing was handled.

  • Jefferson's story has been making headlines since last week, prompting the school to seriously reverse course on its lunch debt policies.

    In fact, the school has changed in a huge way -- not just for Jefferson's benefit, but for other kids too.

    On Monday, CNN reported, the superintendent of Green Local Schools sent a notice to parents that all students will now receive the standard lunch -- no matter what the status of their account balance.

    "We are sensitive to the financial hardship families incur and challenges presented due to the cost of school breakfast and lunches," Jeff Miller reportedly wrote in the letter. "Our staff, in coordination with Family Support Specialists, will continue to work with families to ensure they have access to all available resources to assist with purchasing school meals."

  • The news came as a big victory to Jefferson and his grandma, who are pretty overjoyed that the school reacted so positively -- and so quickly.

    Despite September 3 being the "worst birthday ever," according to Jefferson, he at least got a happy ending when all was said and done. And as Bailey later told WJW, it was the "perfect solution."

    Here's hoping Jefferson's 10th birthday doesn't come with any upsetting surprises. (And it's filled with lots and lots of cheesy breadsticks.)