Dollars Over Decency: School Kids Without Money Have Lunch Taken Away And Thrown Out

Author: April 5, 2013 3:59 pm

girl with school lunch
Conservatives and liberals have two distinct views of the world. In one, no child ever goes hungry regardless of whether or not they can pay for food. In the other, you have this:

ATTLEBORO — As many as 25 students at Coelho Middle School were denied meals or told to throw their lunches away Tuesday because they could not pay or their pre-paid accounts did not contain enough money, school officials said today.

Parents said some of the children cried after they were not allowed to eat or had to toss out their lunches.

School officials said an on-site employee from Whitson’s, the school system’s school lunch provider, apparently gave the order not to extend meals to students who could not pay or whose credit was already overextended. SOURCE

Imagine, for a second, the mindset required to force hungry children to throw food in the garbage? It’s not like the food was given to a child that could pay, it was just wasted. It’s the ultimate in conservative thought: I will gain nothing from this but the satisfaction of knowing you did not get a free meal.

This is why privatizing government functions is a bad idea is almost every circumstance but particularly in those that provide a direct service. Once a profit motive is introduced, it ceases to be about fulfilling a public need, now it becomes about making a profit by any means necessary. The idea of providing children a nutritious meal so they can grow and learn and contribute to society becomes a narrow and selfish pursuit of the bottom line. If children are left to go hungry, well, that’s capitalism for you!


It’s not as if they couldn’t feed them, the district has a policy where a student that can’t pay for the regular meal will be provided with a cheese sandwich and milk. It’s not the most appealing of meals but it will certainly keep a child fed. But instead, this privately run company decided that over twenty kids simply shouldn’t eat if it was going to cost the company money:

Parents said they were told by their children that some pupils in the cafeteria line had already picked up their lunch and were told at the checkout they had to throw it away.

Victoria Greaves, 11, a fifth grader at Coelho, said a cashier told her to throw away her lunch because there was not enough money in her account. She said she threw her meal away and got nothing to eat.

We’re left to wonder what the cashier planned on doing if the child refused to comply. Would they physically take the food away? Was the couple of dollars really that important?

The larger question that isn’t being asked yet is how did we come to a point where anyone can even think that depriving children of food is a moral thing to do? In the richest nation on Earth, are we so blinded by greed and the pursuit of the Holy Dollar that we don’t even consider that going out of our way to let a child go hungry to be the act of a sociopath? Would we rather throw food in the garbage than let someone eat it for free? Who thinks that way?

House Republicans recently proposed cuts to nutrition assistance that will kick 280,000 low-income children off automatic enrollment in the Free School Lunch and Breakfast Program. Those same kids and 1.5 million other people will also lose their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamp benefits) that help them afford food at home.

Ah. Well, that explains that, doesn’t it?

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5 Comments

  • Heck folks, this happens in NY .. even now and even to people who CAN afford school lunches! It’s easy for these accounts to accidently get low and some parents may not be paying attention or have cash on hand right that second.

    I can pay for my daughter’s lunches but when her pre-paid lunch account gets a little on the low side, from time to time it will go over, they will harass my daughter wile she’s at school. This is all mainly due to the whole “Don’t use my tax dollars to feed your child” stance. Frankly, I’d rather pay for a kids school lunch then one of these idiots years of eating junk food and smoking.

    God forbid if the school calls the parent and works something out, instead they’d rather drag the kid into something they have no control over. Because it’s always ok to torment and punish children for their parents poverty. And, it’s moral to use a child’s misery to emotionally blackmail a parent into paying debts. Right?

    • Your child must have been in PS 24 in Yonkers!!! The lunch server embarrassed my 7 year old when I was never notified of his account balance and I CAN pay! My husband went to the school and that was the last time they did that to my son. It’s a shame they resort to mistreating the kids.

  • One school. One problem.

    What is telling- all the Republicans whining about it. Take Stevie West- obviously she’s never had to make do with minimum wage. Particularly when it comes to raising a family on it. Her “let them eat cake mentality” is indeed sickening.
    And as to the sarcasm from Jana Armstrong. I was under the impression that it takes a village to raise a child. Apparently the Paradigm of Ayn Rand is the mindset of the Tea Baggers of America.

    You who complain about free lunches to kids who would otherwise go hungry, complain about parting with even a Widow’s Mite?
    You’re Despicable.

  • I was a bit surprised that his happened in “liberal” Massachusetts. One commenter to the newspaper article seemed to think that it was perfectly OK to deny food to kids who could not pay. Another said Democrats would use the incident for political gain. To the first guy I would say, you are exactly what is wrong with Libertarians and Capitalism. To the second, I say, “Damn right, and for a good reason.” The only comfort in a story like this is that most people (except for “Mitch” the first commenter) think this was a horrific incident. The vendor and school administrators appear to be as angered by this as were most other people. But, I find it hard to believe that at least some teacher(s) was not aware of what was going on in the cafeteria. There is probably enough blame to go around in this particular school.

    • Massachusetts isn’t as liberal as the rest of the country thinks it is. In fact, the general mindset is extremely cold and apathetic, and our social services are tragically underfunded relative to other areas. Boston is especially egregious in this regard; if you’re poor and suffering, it’s actually one of the worst cities in the country in which to live.

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