School Throws Out Hot Meals From Students' Plates Because They Had $15 Or More In Lunch Debts

School Throws Out Hot Meals From Students' Plates Because They Had $15 Or More In Lunch Debts

At Richfield High School, the lunch staff noticed that some students had outstanding lunch debt, hot food was taken from their trays and replaced with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

School lunches are becoming a recurring issue across the United States. We hear stories of kids going hungry, or sometimes the better fortunate come forward to clear the lunch debts for the kids. Amidst all this, Richfield High School in Minnesota decided to serve the kids with outstanding lunch debts amounting to $15 or more an alternate lunch - peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Reports by CNN state that 40 students in line had hot lunches taken off their trays, thrown into the trash and replaced with cold meals. This was the result of a lunchroom staff member noticing that these children had an outstanding lunch debt, according to Kare 11.


The school took responsibility for their actions, but that doesn't take away from the humiliation faced by the students. “There are multiple failures we had in this situation and our job is to fix it. First and foremost in the way we treated our kids. We should never leave kids with the feeling they had from the experience,” Superintendent Steven Unowsky said. High school principal Latanya Daniels also agreed that what happened with these 40 students was unnecessary and wrong.


Like Unowsky, she believes that the situation could have been handled differently. “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,” she said. The school district also apologized, and they said, "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."


Superintendent Unowsky then said that if a student already has lunch on their plate, then it shouldn't be taken from them. "A hot lunch should never be taken from a child," he said. Senior Diamond Johnson said she was at lunch when she saw the incident unfurl. She saw cafeteria workers throw away hot lunches, and they were done with at least 10 children before she could record a video. 


"It was happening right after one another. It was in front of everybody, so the whole thing was embarrassing to the students," Johnson told CNN. At their school, students have to wait in line, pick out their food and then punch in their student number before paying. "The lunch lady that was standing at the computer took the took their food off their trays with her bare hands and put it in a bowl," Johnson said. "They later threw it away, and then the students were given a peanut butter and jelly sandwich."


Johnson says she took to social media to share the video to raise awareness and get help for those students who can't afford hot meals. "I just wanted everybody to come together and come up with or try to come up with a solution for this problem," she said. The district reported that it has $19,669 in outstanding lunch account balances, which also includes a deficit carried over from last year. In a similar incident, a school in New Jersey prevented students with outstanding lunch debts from attending the school prom. 


Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who represents the district, along with Minnesota Democrat Senator Tina Smith introduced a bill to end school lunch-debt shaming once and for all and called it the “No Shame at School Act.” “Across this country, students whose families are struggling to afford school meals are being singled out and humiliated at lunchtime,” Rep. Omar said in a statement at the time. “No child should incur a debt because of their financial constraints beyond their control.”


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