It is a sad fact in the U.S. that the number of students with unpaid lunch balances is rising.
More than 7 million children pay full price for their meals at school every day while the remainder qualify for reduced fees.
In 2012 just over half of U.S. school districts had unpaid meal balances during the previous school year. But in 2017 this figure had risen to three quarters according to a BBC News Online article.
A school in Minnesota has now come under fire after a video was posted showing school cafeteria workers throwing away the hot meals of students with outstanding lunch debt and replacing them with cold meals.
The video prompted angry responses as many commentators said how humiliating that must have been for the students not to mention the fact they would rather throw away the hot food than give it to a student.
One Facebook user addressed the school district and wrote: “How are you going to repair the damage done to the emotional health of the students who were made to feel worthless when their food was thrown into the garbage and made to feel like they were garbage themselves?”
Practice stopped for next lunch period
According to KARE 11 News around 40 students from Richfield High School had their hot lunches taken off their trays and replaced with cold ones if cafeteria staff saw at the register they had a lunch debt of more than $15.
In response to the incident Richfield Public School released a statement on its Facebook page apologizing for the staff’s actions and adding as soon as they were made aware of the incident it was stopped in time for the next lunch period.
“We deeply regret our actions today and the embarrassment that it caused several of our students. We have met with some of the students involved and apologized to them.”
As well as steps they would be taking to help the students in debt the district also revealed it’s almost $20,000 in debt due to unpaid lunch balances and included information on how people can help donate to this outstanding amount.
‘We absolutely failed in this situation’
This debt has to be covered with money from the school’s operating budget also used to pay teachers and provide supplies for schools.
Richfield High School Principal Latanya Daniels told KARE 11 that mistakes were made and “the fall is there, it’s how you get back up.”
She added: “One of the things we can do is model failure with grace. We absolutely failed in this situation and our team is working to try and rectify mistakes we made.”
Our hearts go out to those students who were humiliated in this way. No child should have to feel shame for their family’s circumstances.
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