Lunch Bullying and Food Shaming, Utah Style

It seems as though we’re constantly writing about kids are getting bullied, battered and otherwise belittled at school. When it’s kid-on-kid crap, it’s not excusable, but it is more understandable, as the students try to press through the Darwinian hellhole known as the social graces of our educational system.

When adults decide it’s time to shit on the kids, that’s when we all really have lost. Enter, Uintah Elementary school in Salt Lake City, where approximately 40 children had their lunches seized by school workers and thrown out in front of everyone.

The crime? They apparently had outstanding balances on their school lunch accounts.

According to news reports, the district’s CHILD-NUTRITION DEPARTMENT (pause there… savor the irony) sent a CHILD-NUTRITION MANAGER (pause again… let it soak right in…) to the school after officials became aware that a number of students owed money on their accounts. The manager, who for some reason is unnamed in the newspaper account, decided to withhold lunches from these kids. (Personally, I think that if the manager was so sure he/she was right about this approach, that person should be out front and be named. Let’s see how that person deals with the “humiliation” of having been called out for being an asshole.)

Unfortunately for her, these pita predators had already been served. This left only two solutions:

1) Let the kids eat this lunch, send a note home explaining that tomorrow or the next day lunch will be withheld if the parents don’t make good on their debts

2) Snatch the lunches back from the kids and throw them out, as food that has been served to one student can’t be served to another.

Throwing out the food makes no sense. It’s already out there and the monetary loss has been created, so you can’t get it back. The kids don’t have the money to pony up, so even the threat of this isn’t going to get you any cash. All that’s going to happen is you’re going to point out to everyone in the lunch room that these kids are either poor or allegedly have shitty parents who don’t pay their bills.

Of course, this was the option that district workers took, much to the shock and horror of parents at the school. The school initially didn’t apologize. Instead, district spokesman Jason Olsen said, “If students were humiliated and upset, that’s very unfortunate…”

IF? IF? The hell do you mean “IF?”

What else do you think they were? Proud that they could use this incident in their memoirs or as part of a country song they were developing? Happy because the food the school serves is shitty to begin with?

If Olsen were sitting down to eat with his family and friends at a nice restaurant and suddenly the waitstaff showed up, grabbed back the food and said, “Sorry, but we just ran a credit check and you’re too poor to eat here,” how the hell would he feel?

Then imagine that instead of politely eating their food, patrons at the tables around him pointed at him and laughed. Or chanted “You’re too poor! You’re tooo pooooorrr!” What would he feel like then?

Outraged? Incensed? Mortified?

Take those feelings and multiply them by a factor of ten, and you have the vaguest inkling of what the kids felt. Kids are unsure of themselves. The fear of being ostracized and singled out as different can cripple them. The notion that they have been failed by their parents, mocked in the lunch room and then told “Sorry, but hey…” by the district is a vile and disgusting outcome in a situation that didn’t need to be this way.

In the end, the most humane gesture out of this disaster was that one person was so upset, she went home and made lunches for all the children who had theirs taken.

Of course, that person was 11 years old.

8 thoughts on “Lunch Bullying and Food Shaming, Utah Style

  1. This outrage has been posted on many blogs in leftblogistan. It’s horrible. I can’t believe anyone could be so oblivious as to let this happen, and then just shrug when called out on it. Since it’s the American way, I sincerely hope some of the students’ parents sue the pants off the school district. Or, you know, maybe instead of trying to weasel out of it (o.t. why does the weasel have such a bad rap?), just say sorry and fix it so that shit like this doesn’t happen again.

  2. Can someone explain why lunches are not just factored into school costs? As far as I know, schools don’t charge students for gas for the bus every day; or a daily charge for the electricity used that day. So why food? It isn’t like the community isn’t already paying the cost; why not just bump the school tax a small bit and just say “Every kid gets a lunch; just line the anklebiters up and have the sociopathic crone slap some plastic mashed potatoes and rubber Salisbury steak in a plate, then let ‘em eat.” This is a problem that literally should not exist, that we endlessly fiddle with, evidently for the joy of fiddling with it.

  3. “that person should be out front and be named.”
    If I was to bet on the person’s name, I’d guess…Ebenezer Scrooge. On second thought, though, even Scrooge might balk at wasting food, unlike our intrepid child nutrition manager, who understands the value of “teaching a lesson.”
    By the way, you can see online that school lunches for elementary students in Salt Lake City cost all of $2.00 dollars per. Yeah, I’m sure the school was quaking in its boots over 80 bucks.
    Also, from a quick glance, it appears that at least part of the issue was the school district itself neglecting to inform parents that their kids’ school lunch accounts were depleted. Now, back in the stone age when I was growing up, kids could pay cash or buy a card (weekly or monthly) which was punched or marked. My guess is that nowadays cash is out of the question, and accounts are probably kept electronically — which might also explain why they had to be served before lunch could be yanked…which again makes this a mockery.
    Unless the idea is to BE an asshole. And I really think there’s a fairly large contingent of people out there who go out of their way to BE assholes. They’re also known as Republicans.

  4. Seriously, can we just have a thing where all poor people ever stand up and say, once and for all, “We are sorry we are so inferior, and poor, and worthless, and bad, and we are ashamed of ourselves and our lives.” Then maybe we can just GET ON WITH IT and stop worrying that poor people are insufficiently shamed.
    I ask because we seem to spend 90 percent of the time we give to poor people thinking about the exact level of their shame and whether it is appropriate to their situation, and if we just got it all out of the way at once, maybe we could deal with things like the real costs of feeding people and how they are not remotely equivalent to the one-day paper towel profits at Wal-Mart so what is our fucking problem exactly here?

  5. Wow. Just wow.
    I realize that worrying about exactly who’s being taught a lesson is beyond the mental capacity of a person like that, but, well, it’s not the kids who pay the bill. If he/she was so intent on the didactic value of stern measures, surely she/he should have marched over to the individual parents and thrown their lunches out?

  6. If that had been one of my kids, the asshole who did it would need to call a cab and a tire dealer after work because his ride would be sitting on four flats. What the f*** is wrong with these conservative scumbags, and why do we actually let them keep doing this to people?

  7. Sandman:
    I vote we do that to the whole asshole bastard motherfucking worthless useless never-to-be-sufficiently-damned school board for the UINTAH DISTRICT.

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