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.


  • Tracy Smith

    That is very sad when you can take a child’s lunch and throw it away then provide a bag lunch. I bet you many of the adults at these schools are eating well over their share of hot lunches. Bill the parents like you do for lost books!

    • Keneta

      ALL the children going to school should receive free lunches. If they want to raise the property taxes and add an extra tax on gasoline to support this I’m all for it. I have five children and no man being around to help. My food stamps don’t cover what my children needs to eat right. They should also raise taxes on folks makin more than 40000 a year.

      • Velo99

        Let me grasp what you are implying. You think anyone making 40k should pay more taxes so your kids can eat for free. In the meantime my children have to pay for their lunch or eat the lunch of shame because I work a real job. Interesting that you can’t feed your kids but have a computer or smartphone & an internet connection. Probably another freebie thattaxpayers foot the bill for.

  • Michael Cline

    They are throwing it away anyways, they would rather waste a meal than to give it to a child. Maybe people should just start homeschooling their children so the state will not receive federal funding for the children. This is NOT the America that I was raised in.

  • Mary Ann

    Really Shelby county is lying! It happened to my child today at school.
    Took her lunch away because she didn’t have enough money. Gave her the lunch of shame as its called. My child even said to the lunch lady she would bring money tomorrow. The lunch lady even said to my child you can’t afford this lunch!!! How rude. I’m beyond upset over this. BECAUSE apparently at her school they serve free breakfast every morning! And I have been told its good food too. So, if you can serve free breakfast why is it that at lunch they are given 2 slices of bread and some nasty cheese and milk that’s it!!!

    • Leesa

      This is so true, Desoto County Schools did the same thing to my daughter! I was outraged! But with them there was not a replacement lunch at all. This happened on the first day of school.

  • Bernard Eanes

    I don’t care whether any child has money or not, they shouldn’t have to go hungry. The school personnel should not embarrass any child either. There is no logic in this if they’re throwing the food away. I believe they need different administration at the school.

  • Jets

    Let’s get some names out here instead of “Shelby County Schools wouldn’t go on camera, but said it would never throw a lunch away … District administrators …” A school is not a person, and district administrators have names. C’mon, big men and women district administrators, let’s take away your taxpayer paid expense allowances and make you pay for your company cars and dining expenses, too.

    This makes me so mad I’m choking. YOU THINK IT’S OKAY TO DO THIS TO A CHILD? You’re despicable slime. I vote every election, and believe me, I’ll vote against you and campaign for your opponent tirelessly. And you may be too lowlife to give your name(s), but they’ll come out.

    “The meal could be a variety of things, including the meals being served or an alternative lunch.” What the ??! What does THAT mean? In Utah last week the children had their hot lunches taken away and given a piece of fruit and a carton of milk.

    What is WRONG with you??? Obviously you have no heart or common sense.

  • Jets

    P.S. And don’t try to tell me “you don’t understand.” I think I do. Go home in your county paid car and eat your nice hot meal now.

    • nohatersneedapply

      Agree with everything you said…plus WHY are there so many Gov’t issues cars? Why do they get to drive them home? Feed the kids! It is terrifying what kids are learning from this. We push “Pay it Forward”, but its must be hard for these kids to understand when adults pull stuff like this.

  • Thomas Alan

    I agree a child should never be embarrassed like this. There should be a way the parents can pay a monthly amount into an account and advised by the school when that account is low on funds and or advised of the number of days until the account may see a shortage. If the child is short of funds for the items he or she has chosen they should be allowed to keep these items and given a note to take to their parents there is a shortage.

    The parents should take the responsibility as well as the school system.

    • ticihia thompson

      sometimes children loose their money. Sometimes the cafeteria workers let the children buy too much junk and the parent does not know the account is low.

  • a parent

    If i remember correctly when iwent with a friend to pick up her child for a doc appt olive garden or some such was being delivered to to teachers break room

    • Keneta

      at Jean, I aint got the money for no school lunches the state should and does pay for my babys meals food stamps are not enough. Its hard for we single moms to make ends meat and the state is so stengy
      They should raise the taxes on those who can work.

      • concerned citizen

        I do not agree with anyone throwing away a child’s lunch. I truly do believe that the school should give them the lunch and then contact the parent for payment at a later date. I do find your comments disturbing however. You see, I am a citizen who makes more than 40,000 a year. My father was a drug dealer and my mother left school in eighth grade. I have lived on my own since I was seventeen. I worked my way through college and have waited to have children because I believe that it is immoral to burden others with my choices in life. I have no problem with government programs for those less fortunate than myself. But to hear someone with five kids say that it is the taxpayers job to pay for her children is offensive on so many levels. I work incredible hard. I have been hungry in my lifetime and have sacrificed to be where I am. It is not my job to pay for anyone else’s decisions. Government programs are wonderful but are not an inherent right to any citizen. I wish nothing but the best for those in need. I have been there more than once but I would never say that I OWE the less fortunate anything.

  • Melanie

    Let me tell you now, this is not always policy. My child attends an SCS school, and she was short just last week (I gave her a $5 bill because I knew there wasn’t enough in her account, but she forgot about the $5 and just used her account). They let her go, and sent home a slip saying I owed the office $1.25. I sent it the next day with apologies, and that was that.

    There is absolutely NO need to throw away food, especially for a child, and especially in a lunch line where they would be humiliated… and even MORE especially, over 50 cents.

    Disgusting creatures…

    • lawanda

      My child forgot her money one day and the lunch lady gave her a hot meal and told her to bring extra money the next day, when she did the lady still only charged her for one day and even thanked her for bein honest. My point, policy my a$$! This sounds like adults acting like children. Get it together SCS!

  • concerned parent

    They should look into the plan that Desoto County schools use ( You can put money in your childs account online, get a reminder when it’s low and even keep track of what they are buying.

    • Audrey Grossman

      theoretically, in SCS you can add $$ to your child’s lunch account online, and get notices when the balance drops below a certain level, and even set it to auto-replenish. BUT. . .the low balance notices and auto-replenish have NEVER worked for me.

  • tngrandma

    SCS does have an online pay option for lunches. It will send you an email when your account reaches the low balance amount that the parent chooses. NO excuse for the parents to not have money in the students account. One story in the media about a school with this problem and everybody wants to jump on the bandwagon.

    • Seriously?

      I do agree that it is the parents responsibility to make sure the account has enough money, but come on. The kid has no idea if the account has money or not, and to throw away the food and replace it with more food is not about the account being short, it’s about shame. I can see how a parent could forget to replenish the account, show a little mercy.

    • ticihia thompson

      I signed up to be notified for many things including school closings and other announcements I am still waiting. So you can’t say their is no excuse. Sometimes emails are overlooked. I know you are not perfect and I am sure if you have children you would not want this to happen to your child. However, my child’s teacher loans him money or calls me when this happens to him. School environment makes a difference.

  • Shantelle Stobaugh

    Why in the world would you ever waste food when a child could eat it? Yes, bill the parents but don’t throw it away. Why not link a child’s account to a credit card so they are NEVER without a hot meal? There is something really wrong with a school district that is willing to throw food in the trash rather than feed children. And parents out there, keep up with your kid’s food account! It’s your responsibility to make sure your kids have enough money!

  • John Dwyer

    Some things don’t change!
    Years ago, when I went to a Catholic School, children were beaten with pointers, paddles, rulers, yard sticks or, made to stand in trash cans, shoved into lockers, made to kneel on the concrete floor in a corner for more than an hour, embarrassed in front of the entire class, not allowed to use the bathroom, or just in general, abused.
    If you couldn’t pay for lunch—you got none! If you even whispered at lunch, your food was taken up and you were made to stand in front of everyone and berated. School bullies picked up on all of this for a lot of harassment and irritation unabated. Lay teachers, nuns and staff found it all amusing.
    With all of this, we survived, but there is a caveat—-they will never know just how close many Columbine type incidents, almost happened in Memphis.

    The individual who caused this child to experience this mischief should be investigated and terminated immediately. You have no idea what damage you have inflicted for now, and maybe even in the future.

    • Jay Boyle

      I feel for you going to a Catholic School where the Lay Teachers, nuns, and staff got away with their type of corporal punishment that humiliated students (I have seen it happen, and have had it happen to me, in both public and private schools, to both boys and girls) that was nothing more than legalized bullying. Add to the fact that there have been some lawsuits against some Catholic priests for sexually molesting boys, yet the priests and the Catholic Church want it hushed at any and all costs. As a Southern Baptist and a Protestant, I respect and have some friends who are Catholics, but if the tactics of these bullying nuns, abusing teachers, and perverted priests (not all nuns, teachers, and priests do this) are not stopped, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth of these people as they get placed in an area where the fire will be unquenchable, where there will never be ice water, and where their souls will be forever tortured by Satan!

  • True

    It’s a shame when SCS can throw food away rather than feed a child money or not, the child should have been allowed to keep the lunch. Only in a city where they claim the city is broke but can buy a baseball stadium on the taxpayer backs, Then turn around and put people out of work in the name of the city’s broke…. This whole city is currupted staring with that lying crook of a Mayor!!!!!!

    • Jay Boyle

      Don’t be surprised if the Grizzlies and the Redbirds are out of Memphis within 10 years and the FedExForum, built for the Grizzlies who said the Pyramid was not good enough, go to those claim jumpers, the Memphis Tigers. The city government cares more for the U of M than they do the pro teams, and they’d rather tear down the Mid-South Coliseum (which was one of the first integrated buildings in the South if you don’t count Louisville’s Freedom Hall) than save it.

  • Sherri Panchaud Onorati

    It’s interesting that this story arrives on the heals of the story from Utah… you’d think that the school district wouldn’t make waves with another school district being taken to task in the news… or it could be an opportunity for some unidentified person to get their “15 minutes of fame.” Tipton County has always allowed my children to charge when short and to bring the money the next day.

    • tngrandma

      I agree. Especially when they don’t want to give their names. Our grandson has never been refused a lunch because his account was empty. He was given a note with the amount to be paid back, but he was given his lunch.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Absolutely astonished at the ridiculous comments! It isn’t really about the account being short, not even if the parent was irresponsible. Isn’t the story about whether or not this is the policy and whether or not the policy IS or ISN’T being enforced? If so, that person’s job performance should be reexamined!

  • Takck

    The lunch should not have been taken away, but then the child should not be allowed to buy anything until the account is replenished. Throwing food away is a poor “punishment” for not having money, but then there has to be some form of enforcement else the parents/kids will just continue to count on free food.

    People must learn NOTHING is free. Someone is paying for it! But compassion for a one time mistake is just being a human being.

  • samantha mccadams

    First off as a single parent of 3 beautiful children i am enraged. Why in yoir right mind would you think its acceptable to belittle a child over a metter of. 50 ceents? Furthermore. Why would you rather throw the food away than allow a hungry child too eat it? Some parents barely make enough money too pay there bills much less buy enough food too feed their children at home. Some kids only get too eat once a day and that is at school. Why would any. Person ever call any food a lunch of shame that’s disgusting!! Im appalled at all of this sounds too me like child protective services shoulf be notified. Not only are you denying a child the right to eat a hot meal you are mentally abusing them. My heart aches for this child and any child whom has suffered from incidents like this. Shelby co schools you should be ashames. Maybe if someone denied there children food they wouldnt do it to someone elses.

  • Kat Pham

    I would think all parents get to receive the noticed note when lunch money gets to nagative,,,,,,One day I gave the lunch money to my child and she gave it to her teacher… Somehow I didn’t know the next day my child asked the money again. Her lunch was taken away and I was so angry. Finally I found out her teacher forgot to turn it in… From that, my responsibility is I always come straight to the lunch lady to pay for quarterly amount. A lot of kids buy many stuffs in cafeteria which those are not worth it at all…

  • Ashley Pawlowski

    My children have told me that school they attend also do the same thing! My children have not been done this way but it enraged me! If the school is going to toss the lunch in the trash anyway, then why not let the child eat! This is just plain wrong on all levels! My children say that the teachers sometimes give there food to the kids that get treated this way! Policy needs to change dramatically!

  • MikeBarret

    If any school is doing this. It is NOT SCS policy nor was it ever MCS policy. They would NOT throw food away they would just let the student have it. BEEN THERE. If ONE school is doing this the needs to be some discipline of administrators AT THAT FACILITY.

    I like to goof on these comment sections but NO ONE at SCS or former MCS will toss out a meal unless its rejected by the student. At that point if the student SAYS NO, it must be thrown away due to FDA and health regulations. This lady’s kid must said that lunch looks nasty or something similar.

  • MikeBarret

    Also. A 2nd grader being humiliated. Give me a break lady. What is he going to need Xanax now for his newfound humiliation and anxiety at 7 years old? His class mates don’t even know where the f…. any one’s lunch even comes from.

    • John Dwyer

      Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris started out experiencing this kind of authority intimidation/embarrassment at this same age level. They were described as nice and tolerant of situations, and blended into the background.

      We can write them off as deranged, or crazy, or some other words. But we cannot escape the simple fact that “something” tripped the switch on them. It’s a mean world out there. We should do everything we can to treat each other (and the littlest of us) with the dignity they deserve. Otherwise, we will need more active shooter training for the police and even better words to describe an explosive act that should have been prevented early on.

  • Mem Phide

    I agree with what you all are saying, but last week when it was reported about the school in Utah there were so many racist and negative comments about it’s the parents fault and it was only blacks that couldn’t pay for the lunches because they do other things with their money. I just wish they would read this article and see that anything can happen to cause a child’s account can run short. This is really sad. I think there should be free lunch for all kids regardless of race or income. I also feel that the person that TOOK the child’s lunch away after he/she has received it and toss it should be discipline.

  • Brandy

    How dumb!!! All they had to do was give him the lunch and send a note home to the parents! People are just so heartless these days! The cheap food is already paid for anyway!

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