An Indiana high school has stirred up controversy this week after taking meals away from kids whose lunch account balances were negative and replacing them with “alternate meals.” The school said that was its new policy as of this year, but the problem is that this is what that “alternate meal” looks like:
Senior Sierra Feitl said she was in line for lunch when the girl standing in front of her suddenly had her tray taken away.
“They were like, ‘You owe $25.60; I have to take the tray from you,’” Feitl said. After taking the meal tray away in front of everyone, the girl was handed two slices of cheese on two pieces of bread in a wax paper bag. Feitl took a photo of the “shame sandwich” and posted it to Facebook to show what her classmates had to eat if their parents owed more than $25.
“If you owe $25 or more on your lunch account, this is what Kokomo High School provides you for lunch. Two slices of bread and two slices of cheese. Absolutely mortifying. My heart goes out to the kids that I go to school with that get their only meal a day at school,” Feitl said.
The “shame sandwich” sure seems like a direct effort to punish kids because the school can’t punish the parents. Feitl should be commended for her empathy, especially since commenters on her Facebook post have been attacking her in pretty horrible and personal ways for her post.
“My main concern is the fact that my friends and peers who received the cheese sandwich had lunch taken away from them in front of everyone,” Feitl told Yahoo Parenting. “It’s high school — no one knows why you don’t have the money in your account, and they’re going to assume things.”
That sandwich is not enough food for a high school student, especially if he or she did not have breakfast. How is a kid supposed to be able to concentrate enough to learn math and science and grammar and history having only had a lunch like that? Heck, we’ve probably all experienced the frothing, hunger-fueled rage they call “Hangry.” The kids forced to eat these pathetic “shame sandwiches” must be ready to snap by the end of the day. Humiliation and hunger are not exactly conducive to the learning experience.
Jeff Hauswald, superintendent of Kokomo School Corporation, said the new “alternate meal” rule follows federal regulations and says that last year, the district had to foot the bill for more than $50,000 worth of unpaid school meals. It’s a real problem, but the school should be making more of an effort to solve it while leaving students’ dignity intact because intentionally humiliating teenagers in front of their peers is just cruel.