Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Lunches seized from kids in debt at Salt Lake City elementary
Education » School officials cite unpaid balances on students’ meal accounts.
First Published Jan 29 2014 05:29 pm • Last Updated Aug 25 2014 05:43 pm

Up to 40 kids at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City picked up their lunches Tuesday, then watched as the meals were taken and thrown away because of outstanding balances on their accounts — a move that shocked and angered parents.

"It was pretty traumatic and humiliating," said Erica Lukes, whose 11-year-old daughter had her cafeteria lunch taken from her as she stood in line Tuesday at Uintah Elementary School, 1571 E. 1300 South.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Lukes said as far as she knew, she was all paid up. "I think it’s despicable," she said. "These are young children that shouldn’t be punished or humiliated for something the parents obviously need to clear up."

Jason Olsen, a Salt Lake City District spokesman, said the district’s child-nutrition department became aware that Uintah had a large number of students who owed money for lunches.

As a result, the child-nutrition manager visited the school and decided to withhold lunches to deal with the issue, he said.

But cafeteria workers weren’t able to see which children owed money until they had already received lunches, Olsen explained.

The workers then took those lunches from the students and threw them away, he said, because once food is served to one student it can’t be served to another.

Children whose lunches were taken were given milk and fruit instead.

Olsen said school officials told the district that their staffers typically tell students about any balances as they go through the lunch line and send home notifications to parents each week.

The district attempted to contact parents with balances via phone Monday and Tuesday, Olsen said, but weren’t able to reach them all before the child-nutrition manager decided to take away the students’ lunches.


story continues below
story continues below

"Something’s not working, and that’s what the school and child-nutrition department are going to work on together," Olsen said of the notifications.

He said there’s no plan to use the same tactic at other district schools.

"This can be easily prevented," Olsen said. "We need to make sure proper notification goes out to the parents and they have time to put money in the accounts."

But Olsen said he would not describe the tactic as a mistake.

"If students were humiliated and upset," Olsen said, "that’s very unfortunate and not what we wanted to happen."

However, after further investigation, Olsen released an updated statement that was also posted to the district’s Facebook page. It said: "This situation could have and should have been handled in a different manner. We apologize."

The post adds: "We understand the feelings of upset parents and students who say this was an embarrassing and humiliating situation. We again apologize and commit to working with parents in rectifying this situation and to ensuring students are never treated in this manner again."

Olsen said it’s standard in the district to give kids fruit and milk in lieu of lunch if they don’t have the money to pay for lunch.

He said it’s unclear how Uintah had been handling such situations before this week. Attempts to reach Uintah’s principal were unsuccessful.

Olsen said the district encourages parents to use its electronic system to pay for lunches and set up email notifications. He said the software for the system is new this year, though it’s not much different than the old one.

Lukes said she never received a notification that her daughter would have her lunch taken.

She said it was a difficult day for her daughter and other kids. She said her daughter told her one of the cafeteria workers cried at the sight. And her daughter’s best friend was so upset that she went home Tuesday night and made lunches for all the students who had theirs taken, she said.

"You would think in a public school system your child wouldn’t be turned away from lunch," Lukes said, "especially when people usually settle their balances."



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.