It seems a couple of school lunch workers went rogue in Attleboro last week, when they decided that the best way to handle overdrawn lunch-money accounts was to deny kids lunch, and throw away their food. The cafeteria workers must have forgotten they were in Massachusetts, and applied the policies of Dickensian England instead.
Parents were understandably outraged when 26 students at Coelho Middle School were denied lunches — and trays full of fresh food were tossed in the trash — because their prepaid lunch accounts were overdrawn, or couldn’t cover the $2.40 cost. The move sparked tears and some acts of generosity, as kids shared apples and chips with their hungry peers.
Fortunately, school officials quickly denounced the move. Several employees from Whitsons School Nutrition, the food service company that runs the cafeteria, were fired Friday. The official policy, as it stands, is sensible: If students lack enough money in their accounts, they’re still served a simple meal of a cheese sandwich, fruit, vegetable, and milk.
As school systems migrate to prepaid lunch programs — and inform parents about overdrawn accounts through e-mail or backpack notices that may not be noticed in due time — there’s clearly a potential for payment delays. Maybe some extra cafeteria training is in order. But for any school worker, this ought to be self-evident: No one is served well when schoolchildren can’t eat.