Parents are outraged after employees at a Salt Lake City elementary school decided to throw out the school-provided lunches of up to 40 students.
The action was taken earlier this week because the kids didn't have enough money in their prepaid lunch accounts, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Parents say their kids were humiliated, with cafeteria workers actually taking the food back from them and discarding it. They are questioning how school officials came to the decision to handle the situation in that manner.
The school district apologized in a statement posted on its Facebook page:
We have been investigating the lunch situation at Uintah Elementary School and would like to share the following information.
On Monday, a district Child Nutrition manager was sent to Uintah Elementary School to investigate the large number of students who had zero or negative balances in their school lunch accounts. That same day, the district manager and the local school kitchen manager started making calls to inform parents of the negative balances.
On Tuesday, the calls to parents continued. When lunch time came, students who still had negative balances were told they could not have a full meal but were given a piece of fruit and a milk for lunch. The district does this so children who don’t have money for lunch can at least have some food and not go without.
Unfortunately, children are served lunch before they get to the computer for payment. The children who didn’t have enough money in their accounts had their normal food trays taken from them and were given the fruit and milk.
This situation could have and should have been handled in a different manner. We apologize.
We are also investigating what type of notification parents may or may not have received prior to this week. The schools says they inform students when they go through the lunch line if they have a low balance. They say they also send notes home in the student’s Monday folders. However, when contacted Monday or Tuesday, many parents were surprised by the news. The district has specific guidelines for school kitchen managers on how parents should be notified, and we are currently investigating to see if these guidelines were followed correctly.
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.
Some parents say they never got the notifications about their low balances, and had no idea that the school would actually deny food to children.
"Unfortunately my daughter called me during her lunch hour crying, saying that she couldn't eat lunch over four dollars. I was never even notified that [the balance] was in the negative," said Kevin Conway.
One Utah lawmaker is questioning how many schools in the state are doing this same thing "quietly."
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