A Utah school lunch controversy erupted this week when an elementary school in Salt Lake City confiscated and threw away lunches for 30 kids whose parents had unpaid meal bills.
The incident happened at Uintah Elementary School after a nutrition manager showed up early in the week and determined that several students had negative balances on the accounts used to pay for lunches prepared by the school. The manager and another school employee called parents on Monday to recoup some of the payments, but on Tuesday students who still owed money got in line and ordered lunches.
The Utah school found these students and took their lunch trays, throwing the food into garbage cans and leaving the children with only milk and fruit.
“People are upset, obviously, by the way this has been handled because it’s really needless and quite mean,” said parent Erica Lukes after school officials took her daughter’s pizza and threw it away.
To make the Utah school lunch controversy even more heated, some of the parents said their accounts were paid in full and that school officials had made a mistake.
The Utah school later apologized, saying the lunch decision was made by the nutrition manager and not approved by administrators.
“This was a mistake. This was handled wrong,” Jason Olsen, a spokesman for the Salt Lake City school system, told the Salt Lake City Tribune.
Utah State Senator Todd Weiler went one step further, calling the school lunchroom actions “bullying.”
Utah is not the first state to drum up controversy with its lunchroom policies. Other states have enacted similar rules, including the Willingboro School District in New Jersey.
At the beginning of the school year parents in the district received a letter from schools superintendent Ronald Taylor sayingthat the school would discontinue its policy of offering humanitarian meals to kids whose lunch accounts were delinquent.
Like the Utah school lunch policy, officials in Willingboro said they would throw away lunches for students who weren’t paid up.