Forty school lunches were seized and thrown away at a Salt Lake City elementary school. Parents are outraged as their children already waited in line and collected their lunch. When they approached the cashier, their lunches were seized and thrown in the trash. School officials said all 40 children had outstanding debt on their lunch accounts.
A spokesman for Uintah Elementary school said the lunches were thrown away, as they could not be served to other students. Although the school provided the children with milk and fruit, parents said the experience was humiliating for the children.
Erica Lukes’ 11-year-old daughter was one of the students whose lunch was seized. She said the school had no right to embarrass the students because their parents made a mistake:
“It was pretty traumatic and humiliating… These are young children that shouldn’t be punished or humiliated for something the parents obviously need to clear up.”
Salt Lake City District spokesman Jason Olsen said numerous students had unpaid balances on their accounts and the problem was getting out of hand. Olson said the district’s child-nutrition manager recommended withholding the traditional school lunches and replacing them with fruit and milk.
The district agreed, as the school was having trouble collecting the unpaid debt. However, lack of communication led to an embarrassing situation and excessive waste.
Cafeteria workers, who serve the school lunches, were unaware which children had outstanding balances. Therefore, all children were given the traditional lunch. At the end of the line, the cashier noted which children owed money and their lunches were seized.
Olson said the district was forced to take action as the parents simply refused to pay. As reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, the cashier routinely informs students when they have an outstanding balance and the school sends notices home once per week. It is unclear whether the notices are sent home with students or through the mail.
On Monday and Tuesday, the district attempted to inform the forty students’ parents by telephone. Although they admit they could not reach all parents, they chose to continue with their plan.
The parents obviously owed the money and the district was tasked with coming up with a solution. However, there are concerns that children were harshly punished for their parents’ mistakes. The students did not go hungry, but they were humiliated for something that was out of their control.
School officials have not apologized for the incident. They insist the parents are at fault for failing to pay for their children’s school lunches.