SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Dozens of students at a Salt Lake City elementary school were served lunch Tuesday, only to have the food taken from them and thrown away in an incident parents said was uncalled for and humiliating for the children.
The incident took place at Uintah Elementary School when students were told their school lunch account had either a zero or a negative balance.
The students' lunches were taken and thrown away, and the students were provided with fruit and milk. Officials said it’s school policy for food in such situations to be put in the trash.
Parent Erica Lukes said taking away her child’s lunch was “ridiculous.”
"I don't think any child should have to feel like that over a two-dollar lunch balance," she said.
Jason Olsen is the communication director for the Salt Lake City School District, and he said in a statement officials with the school and district started calling parents with negative or zero balances on school lunch accounts beginning Monday and continuing Tuesday. He said students without money in their account were told Tuesday they would only be getting fruit and milk.
Because the children are given their lunch before they go to process payment, those without positive account balances had their lunches taken away from them.
The statement from Olsen reads in part:
“This situation could have and should have been handled in a different manner. We apologize.
We are also investigating what type of notification parents may or may not have received prior to this week. The schools says they inform students when they go through the lunch line if they have a low balance. They say they also send notes home in the student’s Monday folders. However, when contacted Monday or Tuesday, many parents were surprised by the news. The district has specific guidelines for school kitchen managers on how parents should be notified, and we are currently investigating to see if these guidelines were followed correctly.
We understand the feelings of upset parents and students who say this was an embarrassing and humiliating situation. We again apologize and commit to working with parents in rectifying this situation and to ensuring students are never treated in this manner again.”