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Utah school gives & takes away lunches from 40 students


Flossie

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Here's part of the article:

Two state senators are paying a visit to an elementary school in Salt Lake City on Thursday, after reports emerged that the school had served meals to dozens of students — only to throw them away after a cashier confirmed their accounts had an outstanding balance.

Anger and frustration followed the incident, which affected up to 40 students Tuesday at Uintah Elementary School, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.

"It was pretty traumatic and humiliating," mother Erica Lukes told the Tribune. Her daughter, 11, was among the kids whose lunches were taken away. "These are young children that shouldn't be punished or humiliated for something the parents obviously need to clear up."

The students were given a snack of fruit and milk — and as the newspaper reports, their lunch had to be thrown away in accordance with its rules about not serving food twice.

There's more:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/201 ... debt-cited

http://gawker.com/elementary-school-in- ... 1512340825

It's strange that stories like this keep popping up and the schools are surprised every time when people get mad.

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The schools I sub at and the last one I taught full time at all have an official policy that a student whose account is over $20 negative gets a sandwich, piece of fruit and a carton of milk. I don't understand why these kids were served.

Federal subsidies are getting smaller and smaller and the programs are getting more expensive for schools to run. On top of that, in spite of the set price for a basic lunch, there are a ton of a la carte items that kids drive up their daily cost with and parents really have no control over it. The computerized system where money is deposited and kids take what they want and the money is deducted is making it hard on parents. We had high school kids who could spend $7 or $8 a day in spite of the standard lunch price being $2.50. So parents think the money they deposit is going to last several weeks and it barely makes a full week. The worst part of that is that schools are exploiting it because many of those items are not subsidized and are offered for profit.

The school should not have taken away food. But they should not have been served a full meal in the first place. And the problems are more complex than most people not dealing with it are aware of.

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If the school is anything like my kids' school, the school probably doesn't run the transactions through the kids accounts on a daily basis. I've run into situations where I'll check the account online on Monday, and it will have enough balance to get through the week. Only to get a notice that the account is $10 negative on Wednesday, because they finally ran through the prior week's transactions. Then my kid gets mad at me, because she gets the no funds lunch of a cheese or jelly sandwich, piece of fruit and a plain milk. Gods forbid that happen on chicken nugget day, because I'll never hear the end of it.

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If the ala carte items are driving up costs, they should be eliminated. I'm about to go into full on "Get off my lawn" mode, but I don't understand why everything needs to be so complicated when it comes to school lunches. I've seen the menus for my local public school and the food sounds gross and unhealthy. Then I think about my own history with school lunch, and think that at some point Americans (including myself) have developed a strange relationship with food. For me, personally, I think it started in high school. Back when I was an elementary student, we didn't have a cafeteria or a "lunch program." We got "hot lunch" once a week at one school, and once every other week at a different school. These were considered "treats" as one week it would be pizza, the next week it might be a burger, the next it might be subway or arby's or chicken nuggets. We didn't have access to a microwave. We got cold milk if our parents paid for it, and we had to choose each semester if we wanted chocolate or white. No one died. No one was "shamed." If someone forgot his or her lunch, people with generous parents offered up items. Some kids "forgot" more then others. Lunch time often consisted of trading sweets for veggies or sandwiches for hostess cakes. Sometimes things happened and food was lost/spilled/ruined and then that kid didn't eat or ate less. It happened to all of us, and then we went outside for recess and forgot about being hungry. I realize that I went to a small school and had lots of privilege and parental involvement from the majority of parents and that is not the case. However, I think that there are things that schools can do, even in the majority poverty locations to encourage healthier eating and reduce costs.

Anyway, the "poor kid" meal sounds better to me than mass produced chicken nuggets, and it would have when I was a kid as well. But peer pressure makes people's taste change, IMO. I guess my point is that kids should have the same meal unless they bring it from home. I also very much disagree with the "lunch police" which I heard about recently - teachers/administration checking lunches that are brought from home and changing out items.

I think part of the problem comes from the contracting of who provides the food. And this is getting long and ranty so I'm going to shut up now.

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If the ala carte items are driving up costs, they should be eliminated. I'm about to go into full on "Get off my lawn" mode, but I don't understand why everything needs to be so complicated when it comes to school lunches. I've seen the menus for my local public school and the food sounds gross and unhealthy. Then I think about my own history with school lunch, and think that at some point Americans (including myself) have developed a strange relationship with food. For me, personally, I think it started in high school. Back when I was an elementary student, we didn't have a cafeteria or a "lunch program." We got "hot lunch" once a week at one school, and once every other week at a different school. These were considered "treats" as one week it would be pizza, the next week it might be a burger, the next it might be subway or arby's or chicken nuggets. We didn't have access to a microwave. We got cold milk if our parents paid for it, and we had to choose each semester if we wanted chocolate or white. No one died. No one was "shamed." If someone forgot his or her lunch, people with generous parents offered up items. Some kids "forgot" more then others. Lunch time often consisted of trading sweets for veggies or sandwiches for hostess cakes. Sometimes things happened and food was lost/spilled/ruined and then that kid didn't eat or ate less. It happened to all of us, and then we went outside for recess and forgot about being hungry. I realize that I went to a small school and had lots of privilege and parental involvement from the majority of parents and that is not the case. However, I think that there are things that schools can do, even in the majority poverty locations to encourage healthier eating and reduce costs.

Anyway, the "poor kid" meal sounds better to me than mass produced chicken nuggets, and it would have when I was a kid as well. But peer pressure makes people's taste change, IMO. I guess my point is that kids should have the same meal unless they bring it from home. I also very much disagree with the "lunch police" which I heard about recently - teachers/administration checking lunches that are brought from home and changing out items.

I think part of the problem comes from the contracting of who provides the food. And this is getting long and ranty so I'm going to shut up now.

The truly poor kids are getting free lunch and not subject to losing their food because of negative balances. The school lunch program needs to stay in place. It could use changes and better funding (and I will never understand why funding school lunches is opposed by anyone). But eliminating it would mean a lot of kids going hungry because parents cannot afford to send lunches or because they are too irresponsible to bother. A decent lunch should not be a "treat" for school students. Hungry kids, whether they are 5 or 18, do not learn well.

As for the ala carte problem...poor funding means that the programs need to find a way to add revenue. A la carte items do just that, but become a problem for parents. They will not go away unless funding is improved. On the upside, things like cookies and ice cream have been replaced with healthier choices.

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Pizza, burgers, and other unhealthy foods should be considered treats. I'm sorry if I communicated poorly or my point got lost in my wall of text, but I don't think that the lunch program should go away completely; however, I do not I think that we should be serving chicken nuggets, burgers, hot dogs, pizza, and corn dogs every day. Those types of foods should not be every day foods, and I think it's setting children up for lifelong bad habits.

I also don't think there should be choices every day either, especially if the ala carte system is costing more money as mentioned above. Especially in the lower grades, students should be given a meal of, say, a protein, a vegetable, a fruit, and a drink. They don't need to choose between fish sticks or chicken nuggets. If they don't like the food of the day, they don't have to eat it. Is it harsh? Yes. They can still eat the fruit and the vegetables. The food is created/subsidized specifically to have a lot of calories, which means that they can leave some of it on their plates if they don't like that particular item.

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Choices usually are between proteins that are with and without meat. This is necessary due to dietary restrictions of some faiths and some people's preferences that their children are vegetarian. Eliminating that choice would be discriminatory to many families. Food allergies also can come into play--for example when I had lunch duty at an elementary last week, one protein choice was egg based and egg allergies are not entirely uncommon. It is not simply about what students like or don't like.

Since the changes made by Congress last year, menus have changed a lot and we are not seeing hot dogs, nuggets of any variety, breaded meats/fish/poultry nearly as often as in the past. Main entrees for the last week at my local public middle school: M-breakfast bake (an egg based casserole like thing), T-Chicken parmesan pasta, W-Taco salad & refried beans, Th-Meatloaf & Gravy, F-Chili w/toppings. Alternative meals for middle school are a salad/deli sandwich bar (every day), Pasta bar (Th), Taco bar (T), Pizza, hamburgers or chicken sandwiches (M-W-F). Chicken nuggets or corn dogs or hot dogs were not on the menu for the entire month of January. Other January main entrees included sweet & sour chicken w/rice, shepherd's pie, turkey pot pie, and roasted pork w/apples.

The menus have changed.

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As for a la carte items: my daughters high school has shut down most of the drinking fountains, and the ones that work have very poor water pressure (and I hear the water tastes awful because the water in the lines sits so long). Anyway, I had to buy an insulated water bottle and make sure my daughter has a couple of extra dollars in her locker so she can get a drink during the day. Even the Home Ec room locks up it's glasses and measuring cups and won't let students use them to get a drink.

If you're at the school and want a drink of water, pop, or juice, you have to either bring it from home or buy it from one of the many vending machines scattered throughout the school. I'm sure the school gets a portion of the profits from those things.

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We can check the balance on the kids lunch accounts from home, three school systems in three states have all used the same online program and Dh sets it to send him a text when an account goes below $5.

In the last system, we budgeted to let the kids have an ala carte item 2-3 times per week. We had a couple that were really bad and would drain out their funds too quickly. So, we had to monitor them much more carefully. In this current school district, the elementary kids aren't allowed to use their account funds for ala carte items. They have to bring cash for those. However, one of my high schoolers keeps filling his room fridge and his lunch account is getting drained too quickly in spite of his claims that he's spending his own funds on that junk food. He's honestly about to land himself with packed lunches or getting daily cash to cover just his lunch if he doesn't stop, and he's been warned. I wish his school locked him out of the extras as well.

I have absolutely NO issues with children whose accounts go below a certain level being regulated to a sandwich, fruit and milk only. It's hard to leave a kid hungry because their parents haven't taken care of the situation but as someone already pointed out those with free lunches do not run out of funds. I think reduced lunch kids might, but reduced lunch costs are crazy reduced in this country, it's typically been 25-40 cents in three different states that I've seen. IIRC, qualifications for reduced lunch go to 200% of poverty level so there's a LOT of room for middle class families to still get assistance. I think the boring, smaller meal is a good compromise.

What is unacceptable is that if your system failed and you allowed the kids to get full meals, then there is NO excuse to then go and throw their meals away on them. It is not the fault of those children that their parents failed to pay for their lunches. It would be fine to offer them the sandwich option. It's not fine to throw perfectly good food away, leave the kids crying and hungry. By the time the mistake was caught, there was no way to recall the food. There was NO reason they couldn't send home notes that day that it would be implemented the next day of the accounts were not caught up and then fix the mistake the next day. And even then, as tight as the schools are getting with the school lunch program, I think you've GOT to offer a sandwich and a drink to the kid. Hungry children cannot learn. That's the point of the free and reduced lunches in the first place. Maybe these kids parents make sufficient funds to not have free lunches (but they could easily be in the reduced lunch program) but the kids still need something in their stomach to function at school, especially at that young age.

I dunno. I just really lose heart with politics in this country more every single year. They keep cutting the school lunch program, they've made massive cuts to EBT funds. Politicians just don't seem to care about hungry children in this nation anymore. We need to fuel MORE funds for covering school lunches, not throw away children's meals after they were given them. We need to quit trying to assign blame to parents and recognize that these children are our future and we need to nourish them.

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We qualified for free lunch but my mother refused to fill out the paperwork that would allow us to receive it. I went hungry many, many days in middle and high school. It sucked. There is nothing worse than being forced to sit in a room full of your peers who are happily eating their lunches when you have nothing but a growling tummy.

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I went to the type of schools where, worst case scenario, a teacher or the principle would pay for you to eat out of her own pocket if she (or he) had to. (Yes, I went to smaller private schools, but most there were on some kind of aid.)

I can't imagine having to go hungry, or having food thrown away in front of me. I hope some of the students are quickly before the mistake was discovered.

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  • 4 weeks later...
We can check the balance on the kids lunch accounts from home, three school systems in three states have all used the same online program and Dh sets it to send him a text when an account goes below $5.

In the last system, we budgeted to let the kids have an ala carte item 2-3 times per week. We had a couple that were really bad and would drain out their funds too quickly. So, we had to monitor them much more carefully. In this current school district, the elementary kids aren't allowed to use their account funds for ala carte items. They have to bring cash for those. However, one of my high schoolers keeps filling his room fridge and his lunch account is getting drained too quickly in spite of his claims that he's spending his own funds on that junk food. He's honestly about to land himself with packed lunches or getting daily cash to cover just his lunch if he doesn't stop, and he's been warned. I wish his school locked him out of the extras as well.

I have absolutely NO issues with children whose accounts go below a certain level being regulated to a sandwich, fruit and milk only. It's hard to leave a kid hungry because their parents haven't taken care of the situation but as someone already pointed out those with free lunches do not run out of funds. I think reduced lunch kids might, but reduced lunch costs are crazy reduced in this country, it's typically been 25-40 cents in three different states that I've seen. IIRC, qualifications for reduced lunch go to 200% of poverty level so there's a LOT of room for middle class families to still get assistance. I think the boring, smaller meal is a good compromise.

What is unacceptable is that if your system failed and you allowed the kids to get full meals, then there is NO excuse to then go and throw their meals away on them. It is not the fault of those children that their parents failed to pay for their lunches. It would be fine to offer them the sandwich option. It's not fine to throw perfectly good food away, leave the kids crying and hungry. By the time the mistake was caught, there was no way to recall the food. There was NO reason they couldn't send home notes that day that it would be implemented the next day of the accounts were not caught up and then fix the mistake the next day. And even then, as tight as the schools are getting with the school lunch program, I think you've GOT to offer a sandwich and a drink to the kid. Hungry children cannot learn. That's the point of the free and reduced lunches in the first place. Maybe these kids parents make sufficient funds to not have free lunches (but they could easily be in the reduced lunch program) but the kids still need something in their stomach to function at school, especially at that young age.

I dunno. I just really lose heart with politics in this country more every single year. They keep cutting the school lunch program, they've made massive cuts to EBT funds. Politicians just don't seem to care about hungry children in this nation anymore. We need to fuel MORE funds for covering school lunches, not throw away children's meals after they were given them. We need to quit trying to assign blame to parents and recognize that these children are our future and we need to nourish them.

Exactly. Don't throw the food away. Send a note telling the parents their child will not be served until they pay the balance and put money in for future meals. Done. It's not the children's fault!!

And I don't see what good there is in letting a child go hungry. They should be ashamed of themselves!!

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I don't know. My small school is particularly bad at posting to the lunch account. You have to watch very carefully almost everyday or money that you send in specified for lunch will be credited somewhere else. Also, you have to watch the amounts. My kiddos were charged for 2 meals for a week - nope. When I asked them, they both assured me they only took one. WHen I called the school, it got corrected. I don't have time every flipping day to monitor the kids lunch account and double check every transaction.

We never get anything at home letting us know the balance. Everything is done on-line using a specific website. Have computer problems - tough. THey don't offer an alternative.

As far as the quality and quantity of school lunches? Ick. With the new changes to the lunch program, the food is crappy. My kiddos both take snacks because they don't get enough to last them to the end of the day. Neither are close to being fat, but both are athletes and take a lot of calories.

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All kids should be given lunch every day. It'll cost less in the long run to cover the cost of meals so that kids can learn than it would be to fund jail cells for those who were too hungry and distracted and turned to crime to survive. I won't get on board with even the idea to just not serve kids until there's a balance. Kids should never pay for the parents not filling out forms, putting money in an account, not making enough, or any other reason. The solution is lunches for all kids. If families want to send lunch from home, they can do that. My daughter's school covers meals for all the kids. It doesn't cost any more than if they had to hire people to deal with money and accounts, and ordering enough food to make sure all the kids who'd buy would have a meal. The amount of waste in the way lunch programs are already run is sickening. There are better ways to spend the money that doesn't punish the kids.

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I totally agree with that. Our local public school district offers free breakfast for all kids in the district. They are pretty good kid friendly items. Parents are welcome to come, too. It isn't done by class, but rather when the kids come to school in the morning, they make the decision to walk to the cafeteria for breakfast or not.

THis runs all year - even during summer school and school breaks. I don't know how it is funded, but it is a great resource.

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I don't know. My small school is particularly bad at posting to the lunch account. You have to watch very carefully almost everyday or money that you send in specified for lunch will be credited somewhere else. Also, you have to watch the amounts. My kiddos were charged for 2 meals for a week - nope. When I asked them, they both assured me they only took one. WHen I called the school, it got corrected. I don't have time every flipping day to monitor the kids lunch account and double check every transaction.

We never get anything at home letting us know the balance. Everything is done on-line using a specific website. Have computer problems - tough. THey don't offer an alternative.

As far as the quality and quantity of school lunches? Ick. With the new changes to the lunch program, the food is crappy. My kiddos both take snacks because they don't get enough to last them to the end of the day. Neither are close to being fat, but both are athletes and take a lot of calories.

I'd send lunch then. I couldn't deal with that crap.

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