Utah School Tosses Students’ Lunches in the Trash Due to Unpaid Bills

As poverty runs rampant in our country and income inequality has created a vast gulf between the rich and poor, child hunger is gaining attention as a need that must be addressed immediately in our communities. One way to ensure that no child goes hungry, though, should go without saying.

Feed them. Don’t throw their food in the trash.

A Utah school is under fire after as many as 40 elementary schools students received their lunches, but then had their food taken from them and tossed in the trash. Their crime? Their parents allegedly were behind on payments for lunch. Even worse, many of the parents say they didn’t even know they weren’t up to date on the fees.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, a child-nutrition manager visited the elementary school after learning so many families had fallen behind. Because the school was unable to determine who couldn’t pay until after the students reached the register, the cafeteria workers were told to then take the food from the children before they ate it. Having already been served, the food was then put in the trash since it couldn’t be given to anyone else.

The students were given fruit and milk, so they didn’t go entirely hungry. However, many stated that they felt humiliated by being singled out to have their full lunch seized.

“We understand the feelings of upset parents and students who say this was an embarrassing and humiliating situation,” the district said in a statement. “We again apologize and commit to working with parents in rectifying this situation and to ensuring students are never treated in this manner again.”

The district’s focus, however, seems to be on ensuring that better notification is in place to be sure that balances are paid, rather than addressing the foolishness and cruelty of singling out young students whose accounts have fallen behind, refusing to allow them to eat the food, choosing to simply discard it instead. They’ve said they will work on better email alerts to keep parents up to date on the funds in student’s account.

Apparently, running at a deficit, for any amount of time, isn’t an option, even if it means the food would end up in the trash otherwise.

Sadly, Utah isn’t alone in this issue. Just last fall, a Massachusetts middle school also forced students to toss their lunches, again citing low balances on their lunch tickets as the issue and saying they couldn’t discern the problem until the food was already handed out to the students. As a result of the uproar over the incident, the school said it would put a policy in place never to refuse food to a student again. Perhaps the Utah school could take that into account when it comes up with solutions to deal with insufficient funds next time.

Children need to eat. Hungry children cannot learn as easily as a child who is fed. Food should not be withheld because a bank account falls below a certain balance. Food should not be used as a weapon, with it being withheld as punishment for bad behavior at the school. It should not be a bargaining chip for federal budget negotiations. It should not be “earned” by janitorial tasks.

Feed our children. Let them learn. It’s really just that basic.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

This is appalling! They should have let the children eat the meals and sent notes home to the parents. It was such a waste of food! Embarrassing for the children! Parents are busy these days, most children come from homes where both parent work, they probably just forgot to send checks for lunches. When my boys were in school they sent notes home BEFORE the money ran out. In later years, they told the boys who told us.

Don Swanz
Don Swanz4 years ago

First of all, there is no doubt in my mind that I'm pretty much going to be alone here and incur thw wrath of most, if not all of care2 responders.

Now, let's put the blame for this incident where it belongs: ON THE PARENTS. Not the school - even though it acted in an "extremely" and "totally" STUIPD & IRRESPONSIBLE manner - and DEFINITELY NOT the children; but the parents.

I neither saw nor read anything in the Post to indicate that any of these families were unable to pay for the lunches.

I don't believe that is a school district in the Nation that does not have some sort of subsidized school lunch program and where were the members of the Mormon Church?

More later> Don and WE CAN! :-))

Lauren C.
Lauren K4 years ago


Lis T.
Elisabeth T4 years ago

This is disgusting...

Berny p.
berny p4 years ago


Lisa D.
Lisa D4 years ago

When I started reading the story I was quite angry that yet another school in the US is doing this.. because I have read about a few which have done similar things to the students.

I agree that it is embarrassing for the students in question to pay for the mistakes of their parents (or the school in this case as well). However the children were still given something to eat and drink.. which is probably healthier than their first choice anyway.

And the school hopes to never allow this to happen again, so I think no one really loses in this situation.
The kids ate
The parents got to know about the underpaid balances
The school apologised

No foul in my head

David B.
David B4 years ago

see now I would never blame the Mormons. because I have no moeuse for them than I do anyother organized religion.whether there muslim, catholic prodastant , what ever. there all a cancer on humanity. a control set for a few to control the many if you need that crutch go for it but it should never be allowed to be in public and should never have the freebies it doses.indoors out of public view and before anyone is to upset and thinks I have no belief system , I do just not in mans organized one.

Sarah M.
Sarah M4 years ago

Similar to the evil corporations (e.g. Walmart) who not only through away billions of dollars a year of perfectly good food, rather than donate it to those in need, but take the extra step to destroying the food so that no one can salvage it. Despicable.

kathrynelizabet Etier

OMG! And we thought Oliver Twist was bad!!! How could anyone take food away from a child? I guess I'd get fired, because I'd refuse to do it.

This reminds me of something I overhead in The Children's Place one day. Two employees were talking about some marked down shoes, and how if they didn't sell they would be slashed before going into the garbage, because the company didn't want people taking them out of the garbage and using them. Wouldn't it be more beneficial for the company (any company) to donate unsold merchandise rather than destroying it? This was several years ago, and I don't know if The Children's Place's policy is still the same, but it has bothered me ever since I heard it.

Deborah W.
Deborah W4 years ago

Always the sweet innocents with no-voice no-choice to fuel the fires set by adults. How sad we've become.