Mother Says Son’s Lunch Thrown Out Because He Was Short 50 Cents

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(Memphis) The mother of a Shelby County School second grader said her son was humiliated when staff took away his lunch, and threw it away, all because he was 50 cents short.

"A child should never be humiliated at school over fifty cents," said a Dogwood Elementary parent who wanted to keep her identity hidden.

She didn't want to put her child through even more embarrassment.

She said the way it works: children go through the lunch line, grab what they want and punch in their personal account numbers at the end of the line.

One day last week, her son was short money.

"They took his lunch away from him and gave him like a paper sack free lunch in front of all the other kids. He was totally humiliated," she said.

Someone who works at the school told WREG it's district policy.

They have to take the hot lunch away if there isn't enough cash in the account.

They are told to give the student a sack lunch and throw away the hot food, because it's unsanitary to do anything else with it.

Shelby County Schools wouldn't go on camera, but said it would never throw a lunch away.

District administrators released this statement: " If a student forgets his or her lunch money, they will still receive a meal from the cafeteria. The meal could be a variety of things, including the meals being served or an alternative lunch. This is a practice of the district, not something required by policy."

"They are taking lunches from very small children. They are humiliating them in front of their friends, and now they're going to lie about it? At least stand by your policy," said the mother.

She said her son isn't the only child who had a meal thrown away.

She's heard from other parents and students from other schools in the district who have had it happened.

She has called SCS's nutrition department begging for a change in policy.

She's suggested the district bill the parents, and the parents have a certain amount of days to pay the school back.

"They all defended their practice that if there is not enough money in that account, $2.25, they take the kids lunch away," she said.


  • Jay Boyle

    To an extent, I blame the mom for not having enough money for the card, the cafeteria workers at Dogwood Elementary for taking the food away, and the Shelby County School Board (as well as the DeSoto County School Board and the ones in Utah) for literally taking food out of a child’s mouth (a moral sin in my opinion). This is what happens when you have people with little or no common sense running things. One of these days, a situation like this is going to happen and a child is going to either defy the staff member and eat the hot lunch or throw away their brown bag in disgust and tell them to take this brown bag lunch and stick it where the sun don’t shine. I suggest a boycott of the cafeteria and each kid bring a sack lunch from home, but heck, I’m scared that the PC Police will do to them what they did to a child in North Carolina when they took away a turkey sandwich that the school nutritionist didn’t consider to be “healthy enough”, threw it away, and gave them chicken nuggets, and who knows what are in those things.
    When I was in school, (I had the opportunity to go to both public and private schools), if a student didn’t have enough money, he or she could charge the lunch and tabs were kept on it but the outstanding balance had to be paid or the student could not take their semester or year-ending exams, depending on when the charges took place. What he have he are people who do not have common sense and are nothing but Gestapo-type, politically correct hypocrites who are sending our country straight to the Devil.

  • Nonya Bidness

    —-To every parent who’s child is in SCS.—-

    When they start giving away free lunches to all students please pack you child a well balanced lunch but have them go through the line, get a hot meal, then dump it in the nearest garbage can. The county is counting on banking the excess money it gets from the fed in this lunch program. Don’t let them profit, have your child throw away the lunches they don’t eat!!

  • Jean Stewart

    I agree there should be no excuses for the parents. School food service programs are self-operating systems that just happen to be a part of the school district. It is a business. These departments have their own budgets and are required to pay salaries, benefits, food costs, repairs, chemicals, small ware, etc. These programs are expected to cover costs and the only source of revenue is federal reimbursement and what is taken up on the lunch line. That is it. Programs that run successful hope each year that there is some money left over to buy new equipment for an older school or update an outdated kitchen. No employee likes giving a child an alternate meal and I cannot tell you how many times I have witnessed cafeteria employees paying out of their own pocket. For those that can’t pay there is assistance. My advice is that parents use the technology that is available and make sure they monitor their child’s account. Most of these programs have a free smart phone app you can down load to your phone. We all know parents have these. The bigger story is where does the responsibility of the school end and the parenting begin? Food for thought?

  • Ruby williams

    This is sad. I agree, if parents start homeschooling, the schools would lose funding! Lunchroom workers would have to get embarrassed and apply for unemployment and food stamps!

  • MsMari

    Perhaps the school payment process is backwards!

    1) Computer data entry first – Students/Staff accounts are processed first
    2) Cashier at the exit – cash purchases
    3) Severely past due accounts should be handled discretely and privately between adults without the child present. This is private information.
    4) The school Principal and Social Worker should be notified to help mediate problem accounts.
    5) Set up a “share-lunch” program in the school where other families can contribute to a “share-lunch fund” to help support the school and district lunch cost deficit.
    6) No hungry child or adult should be turned away from a meal in America.

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