Parents in Cheektowaga, NY are outraged after learning that cafeteria workers at Cleveland Hill’s high school and middle school took lunch away from students who owed money on their meal accounts and threw the food in the trash. In many cases, the accounts were just a few cents short.
The workers’ actions even shocked Cleveland Hill Union Free School District Superintendent Jon McSwan. “At first I didn’t believe it,” he said. MacSwan said that the fault lies with a private food company, Personal Touch Food Service of Buffalo, that runs the Cleve Hill Cafeteria. “[The worker] had a lapse in judgment and denied approximately 10 to 15 student lunches, and those lunches were disposed of as the students were going through the lunch line,” said MacSwan.
And here we see the glory of privatizing. MacSwan explained that if the students don’t pay, the company does not get paid. If a student had a negative balance–even a few cents–his or her lunch was disposed of in front of him/her. This happened to 10-15 students.
District policy is that students are never to be denied lunch. Those with low balances are supposed to be given a bag lunch. Their parents are then asked to bring the account up to date.
Once MacSwan became aware of the situation, he sent notices to parents informing them that the problem was resolved. “And I worked quickly with the food service director and the company to correct the situation, and sent out some communication to our community to assure them this won’t happen again,” MacSwan said.
Once the problem was discovered, every child was eventually fed. Some found the money needed for lunch and others were later brought back to the cafeteria and fed. The humiliation, though, can not be erased.