As many as 25 Massachusetts middle school students were forced to skip lunch this week because they came up short on their pre-paid lunch cards.
“[My son] said ‘because I was a dollar short they made me throw my lunch away and I couldn’t eat,'” Jo-An Blanchard, a parent of one of the students, told NBC10. “I told him this is bullying, neglect, child abuse. You can’t do that to children.”
Another Coelho Middle School student was reportedly just 5 cents shy on his prepaid lunch card. He was told to return his tray of food as well, and others were told to throw theirs in the garbage.
Typically, students are given something of a grace period if they don’t have enough money for lunch. Federal law requires cafeterias to provide at least a cheese sandwich and a drink for students until their parents replenish their funds.
But school superintendent Pia Durkin told The Sun Chronicle the school system’s lunch provider, Whitson’s, had instated a new policy denying students meals if they couldn’t pay. They sent an on-site director to be sure it was enforced during lunchtime, but for some reason, school officials, including teachers and the principal, said they weren’t informed.
Since the incident, the on-site director has been put on administrative leave.
“There is no way any child in my school district will ever go hungry,” Durkin said. “Children need to eat.”
A Whitson’s representative said she agreed that the situation wasn’t handled properly.