Yet another school has taken the wrong approach to school lunches. Mill Creek Middle School, the latest in a long line of schools inadequately serving students at mealtime, is under fire after cafeteria staff threw away a student’s lunch two days in a row.
Jimmie Keys, father of student at the Washington school, says that a cafeteria worker at the school took his son’t lunch back after he was 26 cents short, then threw it in the garbage. “He gets up to the front and they say there’s not enough in his account, so they take his food, and in front of him, throw it away,” Keys said.
Keys says his son was humiliated, something only exacerbated by a repeat occurrence the next day. This prompted Keys’ son to speak to his father about the issue.
“My first instinct was to get a huge jar of pennies, and get it ready,” Keys said. “I was going to take it down to the school and throw it on ’em.”
School district spokesman Chris Loftis said the school made a terrible mistake, and that this should not have happened. “I just have to say sorry to this student, sorry to the parents,” he said. “We made a mistake, we need to fix it, we’re sorry.”
Loftis confirmed Keys’ claims, and acknowledged the cafeteria worker made numerous errors. The school is required to give any student who can not pay a free substitute item, like yogurt or cereal. This, of course, did not happen.
The district says that the cafeteria worker did not intend to be cruel–that person just was a bit overzealous in abiding by the end-of-year effort to encourage parents to pay meal account balances.
“We forgot the humanity of it,” Loftis explained. “We’ve learned from this. and the kindness of all of our workers is not going to be overwhelmed by the policies and procedures that we’re required to follow.”
Unfortunately, this sort of thing is becoming the norm in America. In January, Uintah Elementary School threw away dozens of students’ lunches. Other schools have either followed suit or shamed the children whose only crime was not having enough money for lunch.
This issue needs to be addressed on a national level–perhaps with free school lunches for all–or we will continue to see shameful incidents like this–where less than 30 cents can mean the difference between a hungry child, and one who is fed a proper meal.