School Dumps Lunch for Kids Behind on Payments

Elementary students at a Salt Lake City school faced humiliation and empty stomachs earlier this week when their food was taken and thrown out. The reason? Their parents were behind on payments.

Kids at a Utah Elementary were served lunch then had it taken away because their parents were overdue on payment. How would you react?
Kids at a Utah Elementary were served lunch then had it taken away because their parents were overdue on payment. How would you react?

By Joanna Schneider

The scenario is a horrifying one for parents everywhere:

You’ve forgotten to make a payment to your child’s school for their daily lunch, or didn’t realize a payment was due. Maybe things are tight at home and you’re not able to cover lunch costs.

Your child arrives at their school lunch room, is served, and then told they can’t keep their lunch because their account is overdue. Their food is dumped in the garbage. 

That’s exactly what happened to 40 students at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City, whose lunches were snatched by a child-nutrition manager, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

A spokesman for the school shared an explanation and apology Wednesday, but many parents remained shocked, upset and understandably protective of their children. 

“It was pretty traumatic and humiliating," Erica Lukes, mom of an 11-year-old whose cafeteria lunch was seized, told the Salt Lake Tribune. "I think it’s despicable," she said. "These are young children that shouldn’t be punished or humiliated for something the parents obviously need to clear up."

What do you think? Did the school act inappropriately? How would you feel if this happened to your child at school? Sound off in the comments, head over to our boards or post a blog of your own!
Leslie Kitto January 31, 2014 at 06:56 PM
I work in an elementary school kitchen. I agree that this should never happen to kids of any age. However, changes behind the scenes have caused things like this to happen. Many school districts have "downsized" their governments, and privatized their school lunch operations. Instead of school district employees making and serving lunch, profit-driven companies provide these services according to a contract. Sometimes the contract will specify what will happen in these situations, or the private company will have its own policies that workers must follow. The overall attitude is to serve the customer, but that students who do not qualify for free or reduced cost lunches must pay. In my district, they may buy 2 lunches without any money on their accounts; beyond that, they get a "special" lunch that includes a cheese stick, a whole-grain roll, and milk, plus any sides they would like (fresh salad, carrots, cucumbers,tomatoes, peppers, celery, broccoli, apples, oranges, bananas, raisins, grapes, and canned fruit). They may be upset that they are not getting chicken nuggets, but they are still getting a nutritious and filling lunch. Parents receive low-balance emails (where THEY set the amount at which they want to be automatically notified), plus paper printouts that go home with their child. Despite multiple notices, and 2 lunches resulting in a negative balance on the account, some parents still don't get it. It is frustrating and disheartening for all of us who deal with this. And then there are the cases where divorced parents decide to use their child's school lunch as a battle ground, even though neither one is there to see the effect on their kid. We have had instances where the office will pay for a child's lunch (or lunches) from the principal's petty cash. Some PTAs have a similar fund. There is much more to these situations than meets the eye; if you are truly concerned, go to your local School Board meetings and find out how your school district handles these situations.
Roy Roscoe January 31, 2014 at 08:46 PM
Pure and simple child negligence.
Jake Morris January 31, 2014 at 10:20 PM
The person who did that to those kids should be fired!The school should have made the parents pay later not snatch the food from in front of children and throw it in the garbage,The taxpayers wound up paying for that food!As many people as there are starving in the world it takes a sorry human being to do something like that!!!!!
GM February 01, 2014 at 12:33 AM
I thought PATCH was supposed to be local news. No wonder they just fired half the staff. They cannot even follow a pretty simple business model.
joe brewer February 01, 2014 at 05:32 AM
Pure and simple parental child negligence time to investigate those children's homes. If the school staff had not followed the rules then the responsible people who take care of their children properly would have cause to complain. The kids did not go hungry and it was wrong to take the trays away but 2 wrongs don't make a right. It's deadbeat parents that are the root of the problem and the fact that most of them vote democrat.
Bob Coulombe February 01, 2014 at 07:17 AM
Joe. How do you know these kids were being neglected by their parents? You are making an assumption based on your contempt. Most kids that I know not having lunch and who knows if they had breakfast are hungry. Not starving but hungry and that is not necessary in a country as rich as we are. Notwithstanding you are castigating parents you know nothing about you also assume there is a political genre here and these peoples voting rights and their selection of a political party are also cause for condemnation. You are one ignorant arrogant Republican. Bob Coulombe
knee jerk February 01, 2014 at 09:56 AM
What would Jesus do?
Patchogue Snoop February 01, 2014 at 11:00 AM
Jesus? The NANNY STATE suits the DEMS just fine....they have and will spend every last dollar they can steal form "working Americans" to buy votes from those who are happy to live in poverty. Jesus would take the DEMS to task for destroying the human spirit and souls they trapped into this lifestyle..... just to keep themselves in power. Just listen to Chuckie Scoomer, lie after lie after lie after lie. When is this going to end?
knee jerk February 01, 2014 at 11:18 AM
I meant "what would Jesus do" to feed the children, in Utah, a holier than thou state. How did the "Nanny State" get into this.
joe brewer February 01, 2014 at 11:35 AM
So Bobo you call it good parenting that the children did not have the funds too buy lunch. You'll be the first whiner to complain that your child did not get equal treatment if the school had let this go on and fund 40 deadbeats parents mistakes. I bet you are one of these jack wagons that want to raise the minimum wage yet you fail to understand if you have no skills or education you get paid like you have no skills or education. Calling a skunk a skunk does not make me ignorant or arrogant but standing up for these slackers makes you a ass!
Joan landes February 01, 2014 at 11:57 AM
I just cannot understand why these children's parents and homes need investigating? Can someone please explain to me how forgetting to pay a lunch bill can cause getting the government involved in people's lives? From my understanding, these are not neglected kids and let us not be quick to assume that. These children are from homes where parents do not receive services for "free" but at a lower cost. How sad that this incident has brought out the ignorance of some people and especially those workers who did this.
joe brewer February 01, 2014 at 12:03 PM
Make sure to charge the parents for the lunch that got thrown away. Suspend all 40 kids for thievery.
Bernard Johnson February 01, 2014 at 08:33 PM
"May I have some more, please, sir?" Guess not. Replace each and every person up and down the chain of command in that school and school district that could have allowed for such a repugnant thing to have happened. I'd also charge the nutritional manager with child-abuse.
Roy Roscoe February 01, 2014 at 11:51 PM
I thought Educators unions existed to serve the best interests of students. Where's the union bosses? Too much job security with that tenure I guess. Bottom line if parents don't feed the kids the should be hungry themselves. Kids deserve parents who provide for them. It's pretty sad. Two wrongs don't make a right though. I still say the food should not have been served before verifying it had been paid for, but once it was it should not have been thrown away.
anon February 02, 2014 at 07:42 AM
Although the manner in which the school district handled the problem was terrible, most people do not know that the food service department is essentially a BUSINESS that is managed and directed separately from the district. The people/person who did this were acting as business people! Many school districts hire food service management companies to run the meal program, and their 'job' is to make money for the company. If the food service department IS run by district employees, it is never supported financially by the district. That means that the cost of food, labor, employee benefits, equipment purchase and repairs, and even custodial costs and sometimes the cost of utilities, are paid for by the income generated by the sale of meals. Also--the USDA only provides 23cents/meal for paying students lunches, and each state determines it's own 'donation'--usually less than a dime. The Feds give just over $2 for a free meal. Doesn't come close to covering all the costs! Many school food service department directors are lovely people, but are never required to have any kind of a professional education. They have often come up through the ranks, beginning as a server or dishwasher. No one has reported on any of this, anywhere!
steve forte February 02, 2014 at 07:59 AM
Lets not forget one simple point. There were 40 kids who had their lunches dumped. Pretty much means no funds were overlooked when there were 5 , again when there were 10 and 15 and 20 and 25. At some point they had to do something before everyone stopped paying.
Bob Coulombe February 02, 2014 at 11:14 AM
Jojo. Such animus. Such vituperate excoriations. I wonder if I should have the authorities investigate you. Wonder what they would find in your home? You are borderline that is for sure. I think it is just time to let you wallow in your insufferable ignorance and pettiness. Enough entertainment for one week. Time for a football game. Now that is really heady stuff. Bobo
joe brewer February 02, 2014 at 11:30 AM
Careful, I have 5 dogs and weapons that destroy interlopers. I am sure you are choosing the braying asses that represent the broncos instead of the killer hawks. Speaking of birds do you see this grain of salt on my finger? No the middle finger, Bob-o! The winner of this game will probably be able to pay their fair share when it comes to their child's lunch bills and on time also. They have enough brain power not to put the cafeteria people in such a situation. Line up and get your second place trophy so your felling aren't hurt we'll send you a card from Disneyland.
joe brewer February 03, 2014 at 12:07 PM
Did you get your augur hawk shirt yet. Blue and orange crybaby towels 50% off sale today. Nobody showed up for work in Denver today just like the Broncos yesterday!
Joan landes February 03, 2014 at 12:31 PM
Do we have a few "little boys" here on the forum? I thought you had to be of a certain age to comment here. Trolls are popping up everywhere I guess, play nice!!
Greg Smith February 04, 2014 at 02:08 PM
I can't help but notice the Bible Baggers aren't concerned with the fate of the children once they are past the fetus stage. While the fetus worshipers are mostly concerned about saving a few taxpayer nickels, I'm more concerned about what's being done to these children. This seems like multiple forms of abuse. This is the sort of atrocity that is commonplace in the Bible Bagger Republican states. In states like Minnesota and Illinois, we actually feed our kids.
knee jerk February 04, 2014 at 02:27 PM
Greg: That's "Bible Bangers" not "Baggers" and alludes to old timey preachers at the pulpit holding the bible in one hand and either thumping it on the pulpit or with their fist. The rest of your comments, are however, "spot on" (old timey British saying preferred mainly by golf announcers). Our expression might be "right on the money".
rss February 04, 2014 at 03:12 PM
Greg Smith - take your intolerant insults to another forum please. I am a Republican and I am a Christian and I am tired of being ridiculed by people like yourself. BTW - I am originally from a devoutly christian southern state and NO this is not the sort of thing that happens. It's just your idea of what you know nothing about.
Roy Roscoe February 04, 2014 at 05:45 PM
I agree with rss, Greg had displayed gratuitous insults for his own entertainment. It's not funny, it's insulting and it's inappropriate. His mother would be ashamed and if his father had been around to discipline him he would be just a little bit more civilized than he is. I feel sorry for him but he still needs to behave appropriately. Control yourself Greg! Shame on you!
Diane Pomerance February 08, 2014 at 10:42 AM
The issue seems to be gaining traction...some of the people involved in the Utah incident have been placed on leave pending investigation. There has been pressure put on the district from public outcry across the country. Also, here is what one man in Texas did: http://www.moneytalksnews.com/2014/02/07/texas-man-pays-overdue-school-lunch-bills-for-60-kids/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=email-2014-02-08&utm_medium=email
Cheryl Bachan February 10, 2014 at 05:43 PM
Total wrong! Shame on them for refusing food for a child! Like for real maybe the parents arent rich!!! Karma will get them back BIGTIME!!! Smh! Wow!!!
Mary Scialoia Ray February 26, 2014 at 09:20 AM
I find that disgusting.. We send plenty of money/supplies over to other countries when we should make sure that our country is being taken care of first. An innocent child is not to blame , but I sure as heck think this school is!!!!!!!!!!!!
steve forte February 26, 2014 at 09:29 AM
Mary I agree the child isn't to blame, but to give the parents a walk isn't right either.
Roy Roscoe February 26, 2014 at 10:45 AM
The children aren't to blame. Since adults have children and adults aren't responsible and the "State" ie schools make for poor parents and they should be schools not parents to begin with. The best solution would be to do away with school lunches entirely. There needs to be a new "Czar". We need to establish the Federal Bureau of Raising Children. To keep the children alive who have parents who can't take care of them. We need to build dorms next door to schools and if parents can't do as good of a job feeding the kids as the "Czar" can we don't need the parents. Just send parents the bill. If they don't pay, repossess their cell phone, car, and color TV, or turn off their cable.
joe brewer February 26, 2014 at 12:41 PM
Just think if they would have feed a allergic child a peanut. This whole discourse would have changed 180 degrees. how dare you feed my children. It was handled poorly but I bet every slack jawed lunch stealing parent there now pays upfront. I applaud the message and considering the result I'll live with the method!


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