Utah School Seizes Lunches From Elementary Students In Debt, Throws Them In Trash

80049590Forty elementary school students at Uintah Elementary School in Salt Lake City had their lunches seized and thrown in the trash because their parents were behind on payments. I don’t even have words for how awful this is. These people should be ashamed of themselves. And fired.

Jason Olsen, a Salt Lake City District spokesman, said 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.

Apparently, cafeteria workers weren’t able to see which students owed money until they were given their lunches. Once food is served to a child it can’t be given to someone else, so they then took the meals and threw them away. The kids were given fruit and milk to replace the lunches that were thrown in the trash. Can I just repeat again that adults who presumably possess the power of critical thinking, took food out of multiple children’s hands and dumped it in the trash. One of the kids told her mother that she saw a cafeteria worker cry at the sight of what was happening.

“This can be easily prevented,” Olsen said. “We need to make sure proper notification goes out to the parents and they have time to put money in the accounts.”

But Olsen said he would not describe the tactic as a mistake.’

He wouldn’t describe it as “a mistake?” What would he call it then? I have a few ideas; unbelievably cruel, heartless, lacking total foresight and freaking awful. It was terrible that people were given the order to do this.

I understand schools need to be paid, but there is always a better way than humiliating a student and making him or her go hungry. One of the students reportedly went home and made lunches for all the students she knew that had theirs taken. If the district would have showed as much humanity as an 11-year-old, this never would have happened in the first place.

(photo: Getty Images)

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  • Elisa Probert

    One of my best friends is a school cook…she is going to be furious when she hears this story. I just…ugh…

    So rather than extending credit an extra day, we’re going to throw money in the trash and take food from kids.

    • JLH1986

      and then spend more money (the all important money, not compassion) to feed them fruit and milk anyway…

  • Kay_Sue

    Wow. Throwing them away instead of letting hungry ELEMENTARY SCHOOLERS eat seems like such an AMAZEBALLS use of public funds.

    “He wouldn’t describe it as “a mistake?” What would he call it then? I have a few ideas; unbelievably cruel, heartless, lacking total foresight and freaking awful.”

    Yes, yes, yes, and fucking yes.

    “One of the students reportedly went home and made lunches for all the students she knew that had theirs taken.”

    Memo to anonymous students parents: Thank you for raising a caring and compassionate child. Thank you to your daughter for letting that care and compassion shine through.

    This just…I can’t. I can’t. Just assholes. The world is full of assholes. *rage*

    • LauraMatthews

      Totally agree. Just no words for how ridiculous and cruel this was.

  • CMJ

    Yes, bro, I would define this shit as a MISTAKE.

  • Mystik Spiral

    Even looking at this through the eyes of someone with no heart who is just looking out for the budget… They THREW AWAY perfectly good food that cost money, and replaced it by giving the kids fruit and milk… that cost money?!? It would have been cheaper for them to let the kids eat the fucking lunch, plus they’d have the bonus of NOT BEING ASSHOLES.

    • JLH1986

      Thank you. So you wasted money by throwing that food away and then providing fruit and milk (which is even more money). When you could have just “wasted” money by letting those kids eat that lunch and notifying their parents ASAP. These are the people teaching kids? Really?

  • SusieD

    I also wouldn’t describe it as a “mistake.” I’d call it egregiously idiotic.

  • pixie

    STFUParents posted the link to the article on Facebook and someone had a fantastic comment that went something along the lines of, if we can pay for prisoners to be fed, we should pay for children to be fed at school (it was in response to someone asking why should school lunches should be free to someone who said school lunches should be free).

    • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

      No kidding. Society, I think, has settled the matter that all children deserve to eat, no matter what. If prisoners deserve to eat, and they do, kids hardly deserve less!
      If parents are shirking the system, deal with them directly. If they’re struggling to pay, work to find a solution.
      Dumping children’s food in the trash and then giving them a pittance instead? What the hell kind of fool thinks throwing away perfectly good food and embarrassing kids is the answer?

    • pixie

      Exactly. Neither I, nor the person who made the comment are saying the prisoners shouldn’t eat (because basic human needs: food, clothing, water, shelter), but that it’s sad that convicted criminals get treated better serving their time than children in elementary school who may or may not be going hungry at home.
      It’s not the kids’ fault and they shouldn’t be the ones unfairly punished. *shakes head in disbelief at some people*

    • brebay

      Except for a few “pro-life” politicians who think kids ought to be janitors to earn their lunches…

    • MerlePerle

      I’d be really careful with that line of reasoning. A lot of people would be perfectly happy letting prisoners starve to death…usually the same people who believe children should suffer because of their parents mistake…

    • keelhaulrose

      Perhaps we should be teaching these kids assaulting someone means full stomachs.
      I died a little inside writing that.

  • TwentiSomething Mom

    This is disgusting. They’d rather waste food than let a hungry child eat it. Are they getting their money back from the trash can? No. They’re just trying to send a message in an awful way. Once again the kids are punished.

  • evilstepmom

    He’s a bully. Just a flat out, old-fashioned lunch-stealing bully!

  • Shelly Lloyd

    I would like to meet the person who thought it would be a good ideal to take food from children and throw it in the trash, I’d like to meet them in a dark alley and introduce them to my good friend Mr. Louisville Slugger. Then the next meal they would get would be through a straw.
    Damn, if hearing about something like that doesn’t bring out the mama bear in me.

  • Guest

    Resignation? Firing? Something please? You can’t do something this goddamn crazy and keep your job can you?

  • http://www.gamedevwidow.weebly.com/ Theresa Edwards

    That’s what you little kids get for your lunch debt that you have no earthly control over! I hope they kicked a puppy after. That’ll learn ‘em!

  • Alex Lee

    “FINE. Now I’m the bad guy.” – J. Olsen

  • Jenna Nieves

    I have seen this story posted in several places and for some reason I keep reading the comments. There are many people who support the actions of those who decided to throw away the lunches as long as they were following policy. One person said they didn’t like the idea of throwing away lunches but the parents should just be fined or forced to pay late fees for getting behind on lunch payments. Another person suggested the parents AND kids should be more responsible about keeping their account up to date.

    I hate people.

    • Maria Guido

      That just makes me hate everything.

    • SNOWSCAS81

      This is why I’m only reading about this on Mommyish. Stories like this really bring out the Internet trolls and sanctimonious people. I already have a rage headache coming on due to to Mr. Jason Olsen aka Douchy Mc Ass.

  • Véronique Houde

    WTF is wrong with people.

  • Jessieface

    Sooooooo, either way, they lost that money, right? Seems pretty counter-intuitive to throw away a lunch, in order to save the money you were losing. How exactly does that make sense? Furthermore, when I was growing up, if I had forgotten my lunch ticket or didn’t have money for one reason or another, I got a PBJ, apple, and milk, instead of whatever hot garbage they were passing off as food for the day. That seems a little more reasonable, no?

  • Alicia Kiner

    This made me go check my kid’s lunch account, which was negative. And we hadn’t been notified. With all the snow days and missed days due too illness, I lost track of how many days they’d have money in the account. If schools don’t want this to happen, they need to get better about notifying the parents, plain and simple.

    • elle

      Yep, I actually live in SLC so it’s been all over the news here. And most of these kids parents were shocked and had no idea and hadn’t been notified. If it was one or two I would be skeptical but it was a good majority. I definitely question if/when/how the school notified them.

  • Rachel Sea

    Next on tonight’s news, the Child Nutrition Manager of the Salt Lake School district arrested for kicking puppies and kittens.

    This was not a mistake it was a travesty. My great-grandma would break a wooden spoon on his backside for that disgusting, cruel, wastefulness.

  • KarenMS

    I start crying everytime I see this story somewhere. My heart is broken for those children who had to be humiliated and hungry. I can’t imagine this incident doesn’t cause real lasting issues in at least a few of them.

  • Sara610

    How does it profit anyone to take food that’s already been prepared and served, and throw it away instead of feeding it to hungry children? I get that they’re trying to make a point, but good lord–the level of wastefulness and lack of common sense here is unbelievable.

    It seems that in this day of modern technology, there should be a way to set up an automatic email or text-message alert, when you set up your child’s lunch account, that alerts you when the account gets below a certain level, like $10 and warning them that if their account goes into the negative, that child will no longer be able to buy lunch until the account is replenished. That way the parents can’t say they don’t know, but the kids don’t have to have a meal taken from them and thrown away.

    When I was in school, if you didn’t have money for lunch or a packed lunch, you could go to the nurse’s office and get a sandwich and milk. It wasn’t the most delicious thing ever, but it prevented kids from going hungry.

    • Guest

      I remember my school would allow you to still get lunch- but the angry lunch lady would literally shove her arm out in front of you to stop you and say “You need to tell your parents they need to deposit more money”. I definitely let them know, but I was mortified and can’t imagine if she tossed my tray of food.

    • Mark Parthum

      The Salt Lake Code for America Brigade is considering tackling this issue. Find out more about Code for America and the Salt Lake Brigade at http://www.opensaltlake.org.

      We are looking for more developers and IT professionals to join us.

  • Obladi Oblada

    I am the cafeteria manager at my kids’ school and I see a lot of kids’ accounts become delinquent. I send out emails, notes and make phone calls as often as possible but it still happens. With that being said, we DO NOT deny a student breakfast or lunch because of their inability to pay. We allow them to eat and the system keeps up with how far in the hole they are. I basically send that family a bill to be paid and rarely have a problem that cannot be solved one way or another.
    If we can do it, so can they.

  • practicallyperfectineveryway

    The student that went home and made lunches for the others makes me cry just a little. Obviously I’m furious over the rest of the story but wow, what a great kid.

    • Kay_Sue

      I teared up too.

  • scooby23

    Absolutely disgusting, specially considering the fact that the lunch that those bullies just threw in to the trash without a second thought may be the ONLY meal some of those kids are getting that day. So thanks, Utah school, you probably just almost starved a kid for the day!

  • Angela

    Awful! And aside from the terrible, terrible way this was handled I really don’t think that milk and fruit are an appropriate substitute for lunch. If they don’t want to serve them the regular hot lunch then they at least need to come up with a substitute that won’t leave them starving, like throw some bread and cheese in with it. Or better yet, just give the kids the food and charge their account. And set up a system that calls or texts parents every day until the problem is resolved.

  • Guest

    This totally sucks. Mommyish, would you please consider posting something POSITIVE that schools, and particularly the people who work in them, contribute to children’s lives?

    • http://www.canadianmommywins.ca/ Mellisa Louise

      Why all the downs for this comment?

    • Sara610

      I wonder that, too.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Drive-by complaints are just another form of trolling.

  • brebay

    An 11-year-old is just allowed to leave school at lunch? Sounds like someone was embellishing (not this site, the original story)…as if it isn’t bad enough already…

    • elle

      Just to clarify the student went home after school and made the other students lunches for the next day.

    • brebay

      Oh, got it, that makes more sense. Just sounded odd.

  • Magrat

    See, if they’d let the kids eat the food, that would have been socialism, and before you know it the school would be full of godless hellions doing drugs and having gay sex and abortions. And we can’t have that.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    Even as a kid, if you got between me and my food, you’d be getting real intimate with my pointy ends. And possibly a fork.

    You just DO NOT take food away from a child. EVER.

    These heartless sons of snakes ought to be fired, and ought to have every meal taken out of their hands and replaced with milk and fruit for a month. See how they like it…

  • Aussiemum

    We don’t have cafeterias here in Ozland but we do have canteens where the kidlets go to buy lunch if their parents have given them money. Other than that everyone takes a packed lunch. If you don’t have a lunch, then the school gives them a vegemite sandwich and a juice box and you receive a phone call asking why your kid doesn’t have lunch. They don’t allow anyone to go hungry.

    If one of these poor little kidlets were mine, I march up to the school and punch that mutherfucker right in the throat. They are supposed o be responsible adults and they would rather see little kids eat fruit and milk than a hot lunch on what I’m presuming to be a cold winters day. Fucking assholes. I bet your mother is super proud asshat!

    • ChickenKira

      My cousin’s school has a debit card thing for her canteen, and my aunt gets an email when the debit card hits $10 or under, and a phone call at $5 or under.
      Makes me think, if a single school can figure out how to set up a system notification like that, in a country where this is absolutely not the norm, then how is it so difficult for a school in a country where this IS the norm to do it?
      Honestly this just seems like an all-round failure on the school’s part, with a nice scoop of asshole manager on top.

  • Savannah61

    Where I teach, if the kiddo owes more than a certain amount, they get PB&J and milk. But that’s only after multiple letters are sent home telling parents how much they owe, how to apply for free or reduced lunch, etc. I’ve also paid for some of my students’ debt myself, especially if I know things at home are rough, and only after asking parents if it’s ok.

  • Kresaera

    Oh My GOD this is awful! My daughter is very picky and very skinny… if someone was to take food AWAY from her and throw it away?!? Oh I would NOT be a happy mama… I can just imagine the little faces of those children that had their lunches taken away from them and thrown away. It really burns my ass…

  • CrazyLogic

    All. My. Rage.

  • SA

    Well this just made me cry. I can’t imagine giving a child food and then jerking it back out of their hands. I would have lost my job – there is no way I could have done that to a child.

  • pineapplegrasss

    How sad for those kids. I would be superpissed if my kids came home with this story. And how much overdue are we talking about anyways? They haven’t paid all year or all week? Cause its really easy to throw 20bucks or whatever at the account and wait until it runs outs.
    At my sons school, if his lunch account is delinquent, then they stamp his hand at the register. When he comes home and I say ‘what’s that on your hand?’ and he says ‘oh, I need money for my lunch account’ so then I give him 20bucks and a stern ‘take that directly to the cafeteria lady in the morning’ If an 8yo can communicate this, then I’m sure those 11yo can too. They also make it easy for you to pay online.
    If they stamped those kids hands or something equally simple, every day, their parents would have known to send in the money. And sometimes mom might need to wait until she gets paid or something. But take their food away? And if the parents really don’t have lunch money then those kids should be on the free lunch program. What if they don’t have a healthy nutritious meal to come home too?

  • brebay

    My kids’ school has a “no sharing food” policy, I guess because of allergies, but by middle school you should know that if you have allergies, you shouldn’t eat anything unless you know what’s in it, even if the kid who gives it to you claims to know. I found this out when he was complaining one day about whatever kind of sandwich I had made him. I’m like, okay, so take it to school and trade it. Apparently, not only can you not negotiate a trade, but you also can’t share with a friend who forgot his lunch. God forbid we teach decency in a school anymore. When I was a kid, your best day was the day you forgot your lunch, because you ended up with a 10 or 12-piece lunch, because everyone at the table threw in a piece.

  • mick E

    What kind of slime balls throw children’s food into the trash? This isn’t Democrat, Republican, this is humanity. Do they not have mirrors there?

  • GetAngry

    The school did the right thing. There are consequences to actions, and the failure of the parents to pay for the food meant that other parents (who may or may not have financial issues themselves) end up subsidizing the other meals. Food is a privilege, NOT a right.
    How much do you want to bet the ALL of the accounts were brought up to date immediately?

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

      Ha ha ha NO.

      Food is a basic necessity, and therefore a RIGHT.

    • Alex Lee

      What is the objective here? If the objective was money – then why take the lunch away only to give the child MORE food?

      You’re okay with “making an example” out of this kid. Using this kid’s humiliation to send a message to the parent(s). If the objective is to collect money, then maybe the school should do what other agencies do – send a collection agency after the parent(s) and leave the child out of it. The child still gets fed and is spared from public embarrassment.

      As a parent who has let the lunch-account lapse on occasion, I can attest how lenient our school is. (Let’s face it, you make a lunch for the kids each morning, but really, it’s up to them at lunchtime THAT DAY whether they feel like eating it or buying something – and before you know it, the account needs refilling…) They are really good at providing enough reminders and warnings about our accounts. They should not feel pressured into using my kids as leverage against me. It shouldn’t even be an option.

      We’ve got to get away from “No money – no lunch – go forth in shame, you poor person, you” Because if the other classmates found out your kid was poor, they TOTALLY wouldn’t use that against them /sarcasm.

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