Originally published February 17 2014
Cafeteria manager suspended after taking away food trays from elementary kids
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) There has been an effort to make school lunches more nutritious over the past decade or so, and that's a good thing, considering the epidemic of childhood obesity that has gripped the nation. There is still a long way to go, but at least as a nation we seem to be headed in the right direction.
That said, there is nothing nutritious - or smart - about denying children lunch, yet that is precisely what one school cafeteria manager recently did at a school in Utah.
According to CNN, the manager and her supervisor were suspended (placed on paid leave) after pulling lunch trays out of the hands of dozens of elementary school kids in late January - and all because their parents were a little delinquent on school lunch accounts:
The trays were grabbed from pupils at Uintah Elementary School on Tuesday -- before they could even take a bite -- because they had negative balances in the accounts used to pay for lunches, school officials acknowledged.
Officials took trays of food and gave kids an orange
Instead of regular lunches, the affected students were given some fruit and milk, though these items presumably cost money as well (which negates the point of yanking trays out of the hands of grade school kids to begin with). After the fact, the school officials said that they should have handled the situation differently.
Parents were reportedly "blindsided" with this, according to one - and more than just a little upset as well.
One mother, Erica Lukes, told local CNN affiliate KSL that her fifth-grade daughter came home and described the incident, telling her what a school official said: "You don't have any money in your account, so you can't get lunch."
"There were a lot of tears, and it was pretty upsetting for them," Lukes said.
Sophia Isom, her daughter, spoke about how she was met by a nutrition manager with the school district who confiscated her lunch and then threw it away.
"So she took my lunch away and said, 'Go get a milk,'" Sophia told the affiliate. "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.'"
School district spokesman Jason R. Olsen said an investigation was underway. He also told KSL that between 50 and 70 of the school's 550 students had accounts that were in arrears.
District officials said they began notifying parents about negative balances right away, but Lukes claims that the school never told her and other parents about the issue.
"Even if they did try to send the word out, you still don't do that to a child," she told KSL. "You don't take a lunch out of their hands."
A few days after reports of the incident first surfaced locally, a pair of state senators went to the school to eat lunch with the students, to show that no child should ever have to go hungry, especially for such a trivial reason.
As reported by CNN:
State Sen. Todd Weiler, a Republican, posted a tweet about his visit: "Best nugget of the Uintah school lunch story: 5th grader were particularly horrified that food was being discarded in 'pizza day'!" [sic]
Weiler picked up the $3 lunch tab of state Sen. Jim Dabakis, a Democrat, who joined him.
Uh, we made a mistake
Both lawmakers said they would meet with Senate leaders to discuss legislation that ensures students are always fed in schools, regardless of account balances. And Weiler said school officials who were responsible for what happened should be let go, because they "used (their) power to humiliate and embarrass children," CNN reported.
School officials have admitted the obvious mistake.
"This situation could have and should have been handled in a different manner. We apologize," the Salt Lake City School District said on its Facebook page.
"We understand the feelings of upset parents and students who say this was an embarrassing and humiliating situation," the district said. "We again apologize and commit to working with parents in rectifying this situation and to ensuring students are never treated in this manner again."
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