January 31st, 2014
10:30 AM ET
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Dozens of children at a Utah elementary school had their lunch trays snatched away from them before they could take a bite this week.

Salt Lake City School District officials say the trays were taken away at Uintah Elementary School Tuesday because some students had negative balances in the accounts used to pay for lunches. But they admit the situation should have been handled differently.

Instead of regular lunches, the students were given fruit and milk.

"We don't ever let kids go without any food entirely," Salt Lake City School District spokesman Jason Olsen told CNN affiliate KSL.

Mother Erica Lukes told KSL she was "blindsided" when her daughter, a fifth grader, described what a school district official told her: "You don't have any money in your account, so you can't get lunch."

"There were a lot of tears," Lukes said, "and it was pretty upsetting for them."

The district said it started notifying parents about negative account balances Monday. But Lukes said she and other parents were never told about the problem.

"Even if they did try to send the word out, you still don't do that to a child," she told KSL. "You don't take a lunch out of their hands."

School officials admit they made a mistake.

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Filed under: Human Rights • Hunger • School Lunch

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. long2bhiking

    I'm sorry if the children were embarrassed, but it really is a parents responsibility to feed their children. This has happened to my children before when I forgot to send in lunch money. I saw it as my fault- I forgot. I sent in money the next day and all was well. No one is going to die if they have milk and fruit for lunch for one day. Who knows how long the school has asked these parents to clear up their accounts? If you don't have money for lunch- you have the option of sending lunch from home. Free or discounted lunch programs are available at every public school. If you require that assistance, then you need to have that set up for your kids. The schools can't do everything for us, people!

    February 18, 2014 at 1:07 pm |
  2. Vonda

    So, exactly how many children died of starvation in this situation ?

    February 6, 2014 at 12:40 pm |
    • Thread Patrol

      See that thing flying over your head? That's the point you missed.

      February 6, 2014 at 12:44 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      I believe as human American people, our benchmark for success could potentially be higher than no kids actually dying. I'm kooky that way.

      February 6, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
      • Line judge and referee@Vonda

        Game set and match to Ms. Kinsman. Vonda, you are most certainly a one percenter limousine liberal who thinks that all kids should be ab0rted in the w0mb given your apathy to kids being fed. Well played!

        February 6, 2014 at 2:21 pm |
  3. Ann

    I guess I'm old-fashioned. I think the purpose of schools is to provide education.

    Parents should provide a lunch for their children. My grammar school didn't even have a cafeteria. They sold cartons of milk for a nickel. Every kid brought their own lunch. We were just fine with a sandwich, a piece of fruit, and (*gasp*) the occasional Twinkie.

    If schools notice children coming to school without a lunch, they should report the parents to CPS for not feeding them.

    February 4, 2014 at 12:05 pm |
    • dahiett

      Was that back when the civil rights movement was still called "trouble ahead?"

      February 6, 2014 at 2:57 pm |
  4. mgcady

    Talk to the parents; do not punish the kids.

    For the people going on about the parents irresponsibility... look at the article; they hadn't even contacted all of the parents yet when they did this.

    And don't throw stones... have you paid every single bill exactly on time or early? You've never been short with money? You've never forgotten to put the envelope in the mailbox, or log into the system to make a payment?

    February 3, 2014 at 12:59 pm |
  5. Brinda Choquette

    I am offended if the case was true that the trays were grabbed out of the hands of children for lacking funds. That said, I don't see the problem with denying a child the standard lunch for lacking funds. It happens often enough that it can't be that traumatic and maybe its a lesson that should be learned. If we keep insulating our children, they grow up feeling entitled and oblivious to the realities of life. I also find it deplorable that parents are harassing the schools for their own lack of responsibility. Lets just keep passing the buck instead of taking responsibility for our children. Its always the schools fault. Well, MOM, take your head out of your #$@ and pay attention. How hard is it to keep an eye on the balance? My school sends a monthly email with the current balance. Ok, so your school is still in the dark ages? Fine, do the math! 2 dollars a lunch for 20 days a month is ....... Now, go put the money in the account. If there is too much or a balance at the end of the year, then they refund you! Wow, what a concept. If you can't afford lunch, pack something for your kid or apply for aid. I am so tired of people whining and laying blame for their own shortcomings. Lets stop this "I'm okay, your okay" nonsense we are filling our kids heads with!!!!

    February 3, 2014 at 9:23 am |
  6. pheobe

    I recently had an issue with the lunch program here in the county I live.i filled out the paperwork for lunch program at the start of the school year by all accounts my children should have had free or at least reduced lunch.To my surprise they were charging my kids full price for the lunches.I have 4 children and by the chart I received i did'nt understand why .The lunch lady at my daughters school was giving her a very hard time and my daughter did not tell me until school had been in session for 4 months.the lunch lady at the high school here was very kind to my son and sent another form home for me to fill out and she promised my son and Me she would look into what the problem was.After one day it came back my kids should have had free lunch from the very beginning.The lunch lady at my daughters school still continued to give her a hard time,therefore I wrote a letter and sent it to the school asking why they allow a lunch lady to harass the kids ,and why was this lady giving my child a hard time it isnt her fault at all.Following this day I received 2 letters from the elementary school informing me my 2 youngest boys though have been approved for free lunch have a bill from the lunch room that must be paid totaling around $80.00.I do not understand this I filled the paper out the same at the first of the year as I did this time.It is not my children's fault that my income is not higher or that I cant afford to pay what these schools ask for I work hard and pay health care and I don't even ask for anything from the government yet these this lady treated my daughter bad and they charge me when they should not.As for taking the hot meals from kids they do that here also they replace it with milk and peanut butter sandwiches.

    February 3, 2014 at 9:19 am |
  7. Arturo Féliz-Camilo

    Reblogged this on Mr. Feliz's Blog (Teacher Arturo).

    February 2, 2014 at 10:19 am |
  8. Margaret A

    I am responding to this article......I live in a suburb outside of Pittsburgh PA..... when I read about this and heard about it on the news, it really hit close to home for me. my grandson was humiliated a few months ago due to the same thing..... he was refused his school lunch not knowing he had a low account balance.... he proceeded to take his lunch and began eating it when the associate principal removed him from the cafeteria and suspended him for one day..... the reason.....theft! they said he stole his lunch..... my daughter never received an apology or explanation

    January 31, 2014 at 10:22 pm |
  9. commenter

    When I was in school and I didn't have lunch money (and wasn't on the free meal plan), I was given a peanut but ter sandwich. The only kids who ever got peanut but ter sandwiches were the kids who had no money. (If you had money and wanted a peanut but ter sandwich, you got a whole different meal pack that included jelly and fruit or chips.) The point was, every kid in the cafeteria knew exactly who didn't have money based on that peanut but ter sandwich. And if you happened to have a target painted on your back by other kids, you got bullied mercilessly for it, and went home and did your best to get lunch money or packed lunch for the next day.

    Maybe that's not ideal, but as a kid, I never got the sense that the adults around me didn't care if I ate or not, or wanted to publicly humiliate me. I just knew that it was standard for anyone who didn't have money. And often I didn't know I didn't have money until I hit the front of the line and my card was empty. At that point, they'd take my tray and hand me the sandwich. That was standard.

    But they never came out to the cafeteria and took my food away. I don't know if that was what that meant by snatching the food away from the kids before they could eat it. If that's what they did, that was deplorable. There's no need to humiliate children. However, if all they did was take their pay-for lunch from them when they got to the register and replace it with milk and fruit, what's the big deal? That's their equivalent to the peanut but ter sandwich.

    I wish that the media was actually honest about these types of things. Is this a legitimate reason to be angry, or is it just a bunch of hysterical parents who are angry because they can't get a free lunch for their kids anymore? I suspect it's something in between.

    (Sorry if this shows up three times. I'm trying to figure out exactly why this got caught up in moderation. This is my final attempt.)

    January 31, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
    • commenter

      Never mind. It's absolutely useless trying to post here.

      January 31, 2014 at 3:42 pm |
    • Robert

      When I was a kid in school, a peanut butter sandwich is ALL my mom sent with me in a brown bag. Was I being under-treated and not know it????

      January 31, 2014 at 10:11 pm |
      • Thinking things through

        Robert that was what I got for three years - peanut butter sandwiches from home each day. My choice, actually, until I got sick of the stuff. The point is not so much what food you are given either from the school or from your parents, but the finger pointing and stigma of taking food away and giving the child the default for those whose parents didn't pay up. Whether it be peanut butter, or fruit and milk. The parents are those who should feel the pain (yes, somehow, which is admittedly difficult), not the children who in any case cannot pay themselves.

        February 2, 2014 at 2:29 pm |
      • Commenter

        That wasn't at all what I was saying. I was saying that for years if you had no lunch money you were given a lunch specifically designated for kids without lunch money. You weren't given a full lunch and your parents charged later, you we given a sandwich or fruit or something.

        It's standard practice.

        My schools happened to use that specific type of sandwich.

        What I was trying to point out was that maybe this school was doing what is standard practice for all schools, and the parents are making a huge issue out of nothing. I'm interesting in knowing exactly how that was handled.

        February 3, 2014 at 12:04 pm |
  10. RL


    January 31, 2014 at 12:30 pm |
    • Lili

      Right. Fire them... You can't be bothered to pay for your kids meals, or keep track of the balance in their account, and suddenly that is the school's fault. That is NOT the school's responsibility. Its YOURS. You are the parent and it is your job to feed your kids. Can't afford the cafeteria then pack them a lunch. Can't afford to pack them a lunch then go ask for help. It is not the school board's responsibility to feed your child. They are supposed to teach them – and that we might all agree is a totally different subject.

      February 3, 2014 at 7:12 am |
  11. Truth™

    NEVER let a kid go hungry. It completely hampers their ability to concentrate in the classroom. And don't even get me started on fingering the kid who comes from poverty...

    January 31, 2014 at 11:47 am |
    • takecareofmykidswhileIdriveanewcadillac

      Oh yes, I agree – please make sure you feed my kids cuz I ain't gonna spend my stamps card moneys for something I can get more for free. I will not be making sure my kids have a balance or food cuz you is on here complaining bout making sure you and everyone else takes care of them. Thanks! Gonna go play on my new Xbox installed in my new cadillac with a 20" screen – while I's wait in da parking lot line for my free benefits. You will see me at the Walmart and the school to complain 'bout what I deserve (in my $150 Coach shoes and matching $400 Coach purse). Suckers! You make sure them kids goes food cuz I am relying on you, its not my place to make sure day eats, you will! I probably won't need to feed them dinner needer – cuz you gonna get the belly fulled up at lunch, now a new breakfast program is startin too. woooooooweeeee I don't know how ima turn all them unused snap monies into cash (teehee – yes I do)

      January 31, 2014 at 10:02 pm |
      • Jerv

        So insanely ignorant I didn't even read the whole comment.

        February 1, 2014 at 6:14 am |
        • Truth

          Hard to fit so many stereotypes, bigotry and ignorance into mere words...

          February 1, 2014 at 10:14 am |
      • Did you

        Even read the article? Or is it "Ignorant stereotype day?"

        February 2, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
  12. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    This story has exploded all over the interwebs. 3rd site I've visited today that has mentioned this.

    January 31, 2014 at 11:21 am |
    • RC

      Looks like they handled it about as poorly as possible. Go figure....

      January 31, 2014 at 11:41 am |
      • takecareofmykidswhileIdriveanewcadillac

        Oh yes, please make sure you feed my kids cuz I ain't gonna spend my stamps card moneys for something I can get more for free. I will not be making sure my kids have a balance cuz you is on here complaining bout making sure you and everyone else takes care of them. Thanks! Gonna go play on my new Xbox installed in my new cadillac with a 20" screen – while I's wait in da parking lot line for my free benefits. You will see me at the Walmart and the school to complain 'bout what I deserve (in my $150 Coach shoes and matching $400 Coach purse). Suckers! You make sure them kids goes food cuz I am relying on you, its not my place to make sure day eats, you will!

        January 31, 2014 at 9:57 pm |
        • olorinstaff

          You are an awful person.

          February 1, 2014 at 12:13 am |
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