Cafeteria lunch

An elementary school in Salt Lake City threw away the lunches of up to 40 students before they could even eat them this week. Why? Their parents had outstanding balances on their accounts.

In this situation, the cafeteria workers weren't able to see if an account was overdue until the child bought the lunch. If their parent owed money, the student's food went in the garbage and they were given milk and fruit instead. How humiliating!

It's unclear why some of the parents with overdue bills didn't pay them. Erika Lukes, the mother of one 11-year-old who had her cafeteria lunch taken away, told The Salt Lake Tribune that she thought she had paid her bill. For other families, money might be tight. The school district had notified those who owed money beforehand.

But here's the thing - when people don't pay bills, they should be charged a late fee. If they still don't pay, tack on another late fee. There are many other ways to get people to pay their bills and depriving children of lunch should not be one of them.

Child hunger is an epidemic in America and we need schools to help our hungry children get nourished. In fact, 20 million kids get a free or reduced-price lunch on an average school day because I'd like to believe that the school administrators in this country believe that all children deserve to eat lunch, regardless of their family's financial situation. Unfortunately, as I've learned today, that's not always the case.

I'm disappointed in the child-nutrition manager who made this decision at the Salt Lake City elementary school. He or she should be passionate about making sure all children received the nutrition they need to grow and focus throughout the school day. If someone in this role won't stand up for the hungry students, who will?

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Image of girl eating lunch courtesy of Shutterstock.