Earlier this week, some kids at Coehlo Middle School in Attleboro, Massachusetts, got an unpleasant surprise when they went to lunch. Some of them had negative balances on their prepaid lunch cards, so the employees told them to dump their food in the trash.
Students were told if they didn't have enough money on their pre-paid lunch cards they had to throw out their food. Jo-An Blanchard's son was one of them.At least 25 kids ended up going hungry as a result. Although Attleboro Public Schools has no written policy on what to do when a student has a low balance, the USDA strongly encourages schools to provide an alternate meal to kids who can't pay.
"He said because I was a dollar short they made me throw my lunch away and I couldn't eat," Blanchard said.
"I told him this is bullying, neglect, child abuse. You can't do that to children," Blanchard said.
When the school's principal found out about it, he hit the ceiling.
"I apologize to all parents on behalf of Whitson's. This sort of thing should never happen at any school especially at Attleboro Public Schools," Coelho Principal Andrew Boles said Wednesday.Officials with Whitson's are also outraged. The company--which is based in Islandia, New York; on Long Island--told CNN that it neither knew about nor approved of this action.
The school blames the food vendor, Whitson's Culinary Group.
Boles said cafeteria workers are contracted through Whitson's and they made the decision to deny kids food.
Whitson's apologized in a statement and said it was not company policy to deny meals to children. It added that the school district had no official policy on what to do in such situations.In a statement, Whitson's said that its own policy calls for students to receive a full meal regardless of balance, and to alert the district when a student is five meals overdue.
"Employees had taken it upon themselves to institute this change; it was not condoned or approved," said Whitson spokeswoman Holly Von Seggern. "We had absolutely no idea."
The company has promised a full investigation--but it goes without saying that some heads need to roll.
12:15 PM PT: According to The (Attleboro) Sun Chronicle, assistant principal Susan Fortin may have some explaining to do as well. Apparently a cafeteria worker told Fortin that students who couldn't pay wouldn't get their lunch--and Fortin announced this to the students rather than kibosh this nonsense.