Indiana school takes hot meals from kids in lunch line who can’t afford to pay
Another school is in the news for shaming kids with lunch debt. A Facebook post by one of the students at Kokomo High School in Indiana got the attention of local news after it was shared nearly 1,000 times. Sierra Fietti posted a photo of the “lunch” the school provides when parents haven’t met their student’s meal debt:
Two slices of cheese slapped on two pieces of plain bread. Feitl claims the students in line who had a lunch debt of $25 or more had their trays taken from them in front of the other students and were handed their choice of a cheese sandwich or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “When we got up to the line to pay and put our numbers in, the girl that was in front of us, they were like, ‘You owe $25.60, I have to take the tray from you’,” Feitl told WTHR. “I think the worst part was that they did it when you were paying, in front of everybody else. So if you didn’t have the money that you needed in your account, everyone got to see that.”
Can we stop this please? Can we stop embarrassing students and refusing them a hot meal because a meal account they aren’t even in charge of is delinquent? What is the purpose of this? It doesn’t matter if you look at two pieces of bread and two slices of cheese and deem it to be an adequate amount of nutrition to get a teenager through an almost seven hour day. It’s not. And for many students, the only hot meal they get is at school. Nearly 350,000 Indiana children are food insecure.
Also, there’s the matter of having children hand back food that’s already in their possession. Once the food is put on a plate and in someone’s possession, the cafeteria can’t take it back and give it to someone else. They have to dump it. So we’re confronting kids in front of their peers, taking their food, throwing the hot meal they can’t “afford” away, then using even more resources to give them a cheese sandwich. What’s wrong with this picture? It makes zero sense — that’s what’s wrong with it.
There have been several stories in the last few months of decent cafeteria workers being fired for ignoring the rules and giving hungry kids food. A tax-funded public school system shouldn’t be set up to deny kids food — ever. And employees of the public school system shouldn’t be punished for being decent human beings. These policies have got to change. Maybe a parent really needs help. Maybe they’re just irresponsible. Whatever the reason the lunch account is in debt, we shouldn’t be punishing the student.
Last year, the district had to pay off more than $50,000 worth of unpaid school meals. Yes, that’s a lot of money — and proof that there is dire need for more funding in that area. And yet Congress has cut funding to schools by 20 percent since 2011. These people we are voting into office and paying generously aren’t prioritizing our kids. Instead of focusing on that — which is the root of the problem — we’re shaming students in lunch lines and arguing about whether they deserve more than a cheese sandwich.