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There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch: School Teaches Deadbeat Kids a Lesson by Seizing Their Meals


No lunch for you, deadbeats!

It's a tough economy out there, so it's understandable that the parents of forty kids at the Uintah Elementary School got behind paying the lunch balance at school. The school district decided to turn this into a teachable moment unlike any other. Apparently, the lesson was that there ain't no such thing as a free lunch, so the school seized the meals and threw them away.

"It was pretty traumatic and humiliating," mother Erica Lukes told The Salt Lake Tribune. Lukes' 11-year-old daughter had her lunch taken away from her as she stood in line at the school's cafeteria. "I think it's despicable. These are young children that shouldn't be punished or humiliated for something the parents obviously need to clear up."

Jason Olsen, spokesman for the Salt Lake City school district, tried to explain the situation:

... the district’s child-nutrition department became aware that Uintah had a large number of students who owed money for lunches. As a result, the child-nutrition manager visited the school and decided to withhold lunches to deal with the issue, he said.

But cafeteria workers weren’t able to see which children owed money until they had already received lunches, Olsen explained.

The workers then took those lunches from the students and threw them away, he said, because once food is served to one student it can’t be served to another.

No apologies though, as Olsen added "If the students were humiliated and upset, that's very unfortunate and not what we wanted to happen." He refused to call the tactic a mistake, though after a firestorm of criticism erupted, the district posted an online apology.

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It would be one thing to refuse to serve them, but to set them up with a meal then snatch it away like that was pure theater and intended to humiliate. I think a couple of the parents need to have a chat with whoever made that decision...perhaps a bit more...
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They said they tried to contact the parents who were in arrears ...just this week. Monday and Tuesday morning. And took the lunches away Tuesday. Anyone who runs a real business, even the evil cable company, gives you a week to pay a bill. And this was on the last week of the month, when no one has money anyway. All that in addition to the fact that the children are not the ones responsible for keeping up with the bills.
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At my children's elementary school the children with no money, or no money in their lunch accounts, are given lunch, but on a smaller tray. While I commend the no child should go hungry policy, I have never liked the fact that the school stigmatized those children by giving them a noticeably smaller tray. Children should be fed equally. Humiliating a child is no way to deal with a deadbeat parent.
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I think these were students that already owed money for past lunches, but they only have a till set up after the lunch line where they are served. They already provided credit previously, and this was a poorly thought out way to deal with those that did pay for previous meals the kids did get.
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If they honestly cannot afford school lunches, they would get them free. Schools go the extra mile to sign up as many kids as possible for free lunches, because the government reimburses more than the schools pay for them (which may vary among states).
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