Children in Tears as Utah Elementary School Seizes, Discards 40 Student Lunches over Unpaid Bills
Children at a Utah elementary school were reduced to tears after staff seized and discarded dozens of school lunches because their parents fell behind on their account payments.
The Salt Lake Tribune reports as many as 40 students at Uintah Elementary School in Salt Lake City received their cafeteria lunches on Tuesday, then watched as a school district child nutrition manager took them away and threw them in the trash over outstanding account balances. The affected children were then given a substitute lunch of fruit and milk.
“It was pretty traumatic and humiliating,” Erika Lukes, whose 11-year-old daughter Sophia Isom is a fifth grader at the school, told the Tribune.
“She took my lunch away and said, ‘Go get a milk,'” Isom told KSL. “I came back and asked, ‘What’s going on?’ Then she handed me an orange. She said, ‘You don’t have any money in your account so you can’t get lunch.”
“I think it’s despicable,” added Lukes, who claims her account is all paid up. “These are young children that shouldn’t be punished or humiliated for something the parents obviously need to clear up.”
Salt Lake City School District spokesman Jason Olsen told the Tribune that the district attempted to contact parents with outstanding balances by phone on Monday and Tuesday, but that not all of the parents could be reached before the nutrition manager decided to throw away their children’s meals. School officials explained that the lunches were discarded because once food is served, it cannot be given to another student.
Olsen released a statement on the district’s Facebook page apologizing for the incident.
“The situation could and should have been handled in a different manner,” the statement said. “We apologize.”