Kirby: Is too much being made of lunches seized at Salt Lake school?
By Robert Kirby
Tribune ColumnistFirst published Jan 31 2014 03:14PM
Last week, children at Uintah Elementary School had their school lunches taken away. Their parents reportedly hadn’t paid up, so an example had to be made. Suspects were rounded up.
The children had their regular nutritious meals snatched away and each was given two bugs and a cup of murky pond water for lunch instead. Anyway, something like that. It’s hard to tell with all the noisy outrage.
Everyone in America is now focused on the unbearable shame the children endured. To be singled out like that probably scarred impressionable minds for life.
I doubt it.
One afternoon after lunch recess in the fifth grade, I returned to class expecting the usual miserable afternoon of failing a quiz, being refused repeated bathroom breaks and spending time with my nose against the blackboard for something yet to be determined.
Instead, Mrs. Henry immediately latched onto me. She hauled me to the front of the class and ordered me to stand next to her desk like a reprisal hostage waiting to be shot.
I had no real idea what was going on. With my scholastic history and short attention span, it could have been anything: robbery, arson, rustling. Hell, maybe I accidentally killed somebody.
With 30 sets of eyes focused on me, Mrs. Henry harangued the class at length about proper nutrition, social responsibility, wasted money and bad manners. She finally got to the point.
"I saw this boy," she wagged a finger of judgment at me, "throw his entire school lunch sandwich into the garbage."
Great emphasis was placed on the fact that I hadn’t taken a single bite out of the sandwich. While children were starving in Africa, Mrs. Henry had seen me scrape it untouched into the garbage can before running out to play.
The sandwich in question was infamous. The school cafeteria served them every Friday. Peanut butter and a smear of honey on two dry slices of white bread. It took an entire carton of milk to get one down.
I wasn’t alone in this opinion. A hundred uneaten peanut butter and drywall sandwiches were already in the trash when I dumped mine.
Sensing that an example was about to be made of me, I mentally prepared a rebuttal. My parents had paid for the sandwich. It was therefore technically my sandwich. And because they weren’t there to make me, I didn’t have to eat it. Right?
Wrong. Mrs. Henry had thoughtfully brought another sandwich from the lunchroom. I was required to eat every bit of it in front of the class. With nothing to wash it down it was like swallowing Styrofoam. It took forever.
If the point was to shame me into eating my lunch in the future, it didn’t work. I had no shame. I did stop throwing unwanted food into the garbage, though.
Every Friday until another teacher caught me doing it, Mrs. Henry found peanut butter and honey sandwich halves stuck to the windows of her car.
Maybe too much is being made of this whole school lunch incident. Kids are resilient. They’ll get over it with no adverse effects. After all, it happened to me and…
Somebody get those kids some counseling. And some lunch.