Parents upset after school takes lunches from students with account deficits

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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.”



    What happened to honour,dignity,respect and accountability? Are they lost? As a parent my childs lunch money is figured in my budget, I pay for two weeks worth out of each check,rocket science ? not really ! I am a single working parent and understand toughness very well,but I have always taken care of my children,I work hard and budget very closely.Kudos to Uintah for giving them fruit and milk other schools give you nothing,you should be grateful! Who ends up paying for your childs fruit and milk? More of other peoples money? The thing that bothers me most is the lessons these parents are teaching their children. You are teaching your children that if you don’t pay a bill it is someone else’s fault,so throw a tantrum and act dissrepectful.Is that the same way they will act as adults when they don’t pay their mortgage? Why do you people feel it is the government and schools responsibility to provide for you and children? As for throwing the food away….that is law for commense sense sanitary reasons!!!

  • e-Angels

    Open message to Uintah Elementary School … Before you take a single child’s lunch away due to non-payment, PLEASE send a Facebook message to e-Angels. WE WILL IMMEDIATELY SEND YOU PAYMENT FOR THAT CHILD’S LUNCH.


      Good for you e-Angles. If there were more people like you, I wouldn’t have to put so much effort into my outstanding lunch accounts. Hope you have that extra $100.00 a day that I front for unpaid lunches.

  • Decent

    If a parent is on food stamps with a child that attends school then feed the kids twice a day lunch and dinner and reduce the parents food stamps accordingly. Allow the parents to pay with snap assistance so at least the kids eat and the snap benefits are actually used for the kids. Seriously society could do much better than taking food from a kid. The employees should have had enough compassion to refuse to take food already given away from a child. If this were my child involved id be pretty upset too. Fortunately i was raised by a single mom who would have starved to death just to feed her babies. Love you mom wish more in the world were like ya.

  • JohnCam

    On the other hand.. it’s teaching the children a good money lesson. You must honor your contract and pay your bills. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. These kids were from middle class families and weren’t going to starve to death over one missed lunch.

    • Ms.R. West

      It was not made known whether the children in question had a medical condition that required a regularly scheduled meal. They’re not going to have a sign around their neck saying feed me I have a medical condition. To say that child or children missing one meal won’t kill them, who are you to be the judge of that? This is a communication problem between the parents & school. The children should not have been penalized.

  • Mandie

    You can place blame on both the school and the parent. The parent should be providing for THEIR child but in turn the school is responsible to feed the child. Parents need to take responsibility for their own children, obviously you know they eat and haven’t paid anything for it.

  • Pam Taylor

    There are times that my son’s school has forgotten to tell me about my sons lunch money being out, but they still gave him at least a cheese, or PB&J sandwich and a milk. No one ever took a perfectly good lunch away from my son though, someone clearly wasn’t thinking.

  • Chawn

    Whomever made this ridiculous “rule” should be FIRED! For a child to go hungry AND be humiliated and probably be bullied from now on. What were you INHUMANE people thinking???

  • Brandon D.

    I think the story if blown way out of proportion. Lunches taken away? It’s not like the kids sat down at the table with their lunch after thinking they were all set and then staff came and took it away. Now I agree that the owness of notifying the parents should not be left soley up to elementary students, so as long as due notice was provided to the parents, and they failed or forgot to act, there’s no blame to the school in my opinion. When i was elementary school, a simple “I/My parents forgot to add money” was a simple statement to give fellow students to save from embarrassment as I ate a healthy fruit and milk lunch. It was something when I forgot to bring my lunch to school with me. Bottom line, if the school told the parents in advance, I don’t think they did anything wrong, especially since they were still provided fruit and milk.

  • CallMeDiane (@DianeM1966)

    Considering Utah is known for food storage and preparedness, I am shocked at the whining and crying over this! Where is the responsibility on the parents sending their kids to school with lunches from home?

    When I was a kid, I lived in a very small district in Central New York. The elementary school my siblings and I attended did not provide lunches. They did sell the small cartons of milk (regular, low-fat and chocolate) for about $.15 each to those who wanted to buy it. Parents sent their kids to school with their lunches made at home. I often took soup in a thermos that stayed hot for several hours. I also brought milk from home because my family was very frugal with the budget.

    Maybe it’s time the parents in this Utah district get back to these basic principles and stop expecting the schools to provide lunches. It would save the district a whole lot of money.

  • Amber

    Let’s think for a minute……we teach our children to always be kind to others, have good manners, and respect everyone.
    Then, they go to school and have every teaching that we have bestowed on them taken away and on top of that they are humiliated in front of their peers. The “adults” that are on PAID administrative leave should not be PAID. That is ridiculous to give them a paid vacation!! I would be looking into a discrimination law suit if that were my child.

  • Elaine

    when my son was in elementary school we had a similar situation. My son had gone up got his lunch and he was paying in front of the whole cafeteria they took his lunch threw it in the garbage and said he had a delinquent account handed him a cheese sandwich which consisted of only two of two pieces of bread in a slice of cheese. This school was at fault for his delinquent account numerous times. This school hung all ofthe catson a wall, which was unmonitored. Another student would take the card and use it as their own which would cause his account to be delinquent my son did not use his card very often because he usually brought a lunch from home. When I address the school I had to prove what I had paid On the card, when he had eaten lunch at the school and brought it from home they had caused such an embarrassment to my son but he refused to eat food from the school again. They are not tactful or discreet about it. The school will charge you the same for the cheese sandwich as the regular lunch . I understand there will be some issues with some parents not paying the bill, but not every situation is due to the lack of funds from the parents. Something needs to be changed nation wide so this doesn’t keep occurring.

  • Tricia Yeo

    The way they handled it was wrong. I’m curious how many were reduced lunch kids, because this is a very affluent area. The parents should know that their kids lunch money is low. My daughter went to a school and we had to prepay lunch. I have a solution, pack your kids lunch. But I agree throwing away food was wrong!

  • Carol

    This also happens in Carbon County, They did the same thing to my niece at the school she was attending, She had her tray of food and a lunch lady rudely walked up to her and told her she could not have it and took it and dumped into trash. Its disgusting that someone could be so HEARTLESS and feel good about themselves taking food from a hungry person especially a child! Also think its horrible for anyone to throw food away with all the hungry children and people out in the world going without! ALL SCHOOLS NEED TO BE INVESTIGATED ON THIS ISSUE!

  • Marianne

    How cruel! This made a guy in Texas pay the delinquent accounts of the students in a school near him. Come on–there are plenty of wealthy people in Salt Lake. Help these kids!

    • Terry

      Generally, accounts with a deficit are those belonging to parents who are able to pay, but tend to procrastinate. Ironically, NSLP/SBP/SMP/ASSP/SFSP/FFVP/SSO program participants generally do not have account deficits because they have submitted an application for assistance, and having been granted assistance in the form of free or reduced price meals for the student, the program keeps their balance current.

      It’s still a bad setup to deal with the deficit at the end of the line rather than the beginning, since it only permits them to perform additional account debiting for things like two milks and other optional purchase items as a revenue center (this is a feature of the software that the school uses, which is sold as a benefit to the school).

      Given that the school isn’t a Title 1 school, some of the programs aren’t applicable.

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