Middle School Forces Hungry Students to Throw Out Their Lunches When They Couldn't Pay

School lunch is often the only reliable meal for many of our country’s poor youths. But rather than make the school cafeteria a safe space for struggling students, one Massachusetts middle school forced kids with negative pre-paid lunch accounts to learn a lesson in frugality; just five cents of “debt” on a pre-paid card led cafeteria employees at Coehio Middle School to tell their pre-teen debtors to dump out the food they would have normally eaten and go hungry. About 25 students left the cafeteria with empty bellies, the company that runs the cafeteria said in a statement.


Needless to say, parents were outraged by what one mother decsribed as “bullying” and “neglect,” and “child abuse.” But the principal of Coehio Middle School deflected responsibility to Whitson’s, the private company that runs the cafeteria.  "My expectation is that every child, every adult, every parent, every student, every teacher is respected in this building, and that didn't happen yesterday because of Whitson's," he told WJAR.

Whitson's apologized and said it has no policy to deny meals to in-debted children, adding that that it has no policy at all for what employees should do if a child cannot pay for lunch.

"Employees had taken it upon themselves to institute this change; it was not condoned or approved," said Whitson spokeswoman Holly Von Seggern. "We had absolutely no idea." But the principal, who said Whitson employees work on a contract, maintains that Whitson’s made the call to punish youths with low accounts.

If Whitson's is to blame, hopefully the company that supplies 80 schools in New England with lunch meals has learned a lesson. According to CNN, a negative balance usually lands kids "a cheese sandwich, a fruit and vegetable, and milk” before the company contacts parents about payment.

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.