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School Throws Away Lunches Because Kids Can't Pay: Man Steps Up to Help

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

As a tutor and mentor at Valley Oaks Elementary School in Houston for over 10 years, Kenny Thompson has taken pride in helping out kids. So on Monday, when he found out that over 60 students at his school were eating cold sandwiches for lunch because of overdue funds on their accounts, he decided to pay off the negative balance. All $465 of it.


“It was the best money I ever spent,” Thompson, 52, told TODAY.com. “It was the best gift I ever gave myself. I went into my car and screamed.”


He didn’t realize how widespread the lunch account problem was until he learned that a Utah school had thrown away the lunches of students with negative balances at the end of January. That’s when he decided to look into the issue in his own community.


Read More on Today Moms 


What policies does your chid's school have about providing lunch for kids in need? 

post #2 of 12

Sweet, but it's a one-off, one-time solution enabled entirely by an employee in a fortunate financial situation.  Teachers and aides should have access to resources for helping students that don't require them to reach into their own pockets - so many of them are underpaid to start with.


My school district provides universal free school lunch. and many individual schools within the district also provide universal school breakfast at no charge to families.

post #3 of 12

Our school offers a free and reduced lunch for those on low income.

For those whose parents simply forget to put money in the lunch account, they may get a one time pass. Otherwise, it's a cheese sandwich or a peanut butter jelly sandwich.
I think it's a fair deal.

post #4 of 12

Our school also serves free and reduced lunch.  There are also people who don't qualify but aren't exactly "rich" either.  The lunch bill is sent by mail like any other bill.  If you miss a payment or get behind, it adds up for a while before they worry about it.  The kids get lunch either way.  Cheese sandwich??   Fair deal for WHO?

post #5 of 12

My husband went to our sons' school to have lunch with them and saw a child without a lunch. When my husband offered to pay for a lunch tray for the child, the school refused to allow it because it would be "unfair" to any other children that may not have had a lunch that day!  What a load of CRAP!  Our boys no longer attend school there!

post #6 of 12

One doesn't have to be "rich" in order to provide a child adequate lunch. We are by no means rich. Far from it actually. But I make my children's food a priority. That means we don't do cable, we have a dinosaur for a vehicle, we don't have unlimited plans on our phones, etc.

I grew up with circumstances where I would've sold my left arm for a cheese sandwich at lunch. Surprisingly, I never could recall a time where I was hungry. I may not have been served the food that I wanted, but I never went hungry.

post #7 of 12

I live in Canada, and here we do not have a universal lunch program. 

Children either bring a lunch or buy one from the cafeteria. There are no "lunch programs".

In the city that I live in, there are breakfast programs, snack programs and "mid morning meal" programs. Some schools do all and some do a mix and some do none. It is up to the school. 

The school my kid goes to does a breakfast program and mid morning meal. The mid morning meal is a protein, a grain and a serving of fruits and/or vegetables served at 10am. It is universal, meaning every kid gets it. However, parents are asked to pay for it. Each school is funded in part by what the provincial and municipal government determines to be the level of children living below the poverty line in the school. Those that cannot pay for one reason or another privately go to the principal and have the fees for their children waived. Although, every child will get the meal wether or not they pay or whether or not the parents approach the principal. 

post #8 of 12

Our school is almost 100% free/reduced lunch recipients. 


On a related note, our school sold enough advertising this year to give each kid an agenda for free.  The deal was: you lose it, you pay $5 for a new one.  Today the bookkeeper handed out 10 replacement agendas and paid for them herself because they were all kids who she said "Don't get to eat dinner every night".

post #9 of 12

Let's put this in context.  Yes some parents won't pay because they mismanage their finances, some simply can't afford it (probably most of the children are in this position), some are disorganized and forget, and there may even be some horrible parents who just don't care.  


The question is: should their children suffer because of this, and should yours?  Because I guarantee you that those who aren't getting a real lunch aren't going to be at their best, and this affects not only their learning potential but the whole class when they struggle to keep up, are disruptive, or require extra resources later on.


A nutritious, free lunch is such a small investment to give those at risk.  a hot, nutritious meal that they perform better and gives their classmates children that are well fed and therefore not cranky, distractible and tired. For some children the hot lunch is one of their only sources of a real meal. One cheese sandwich is not going to hurt anyone (not allergic etc) but when that is what the child may also be eating for dinner-- it creates a situation when many children are really being fed but just stuffed with calories. 


Personally, I would never feed my children what passes as food in most schools, but if it's available, it should be available to all, not just to those whose parents are in position to pay for it. 

Edited by Taqah - 2/11/14 at 8:35pm
post #10 of 12
Students also need to know that not everything in life is free.
post #11 of 12
Originally Posted by Earthmoma View Post

Students also need to know that not everything in life is free.

It's lunch, not an iPod.  Kids aren't supposed to have to worry about the basics (food, clothing, shelter), those are supposed to be provided for them, and kids don't have many employment opportunities if their needs aren't being met, so exactly what life-lesson are kids supposed to learn by being denied lunch by their school when their parents can't/won't pay?

post #12 of 12
Originally Posted by Earthmoma View Post

Students also need to know that not everything in life is free.


is this for real?  this "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" attitude that is rampant in our society should not apply to children and FOOD.  we have absolutely no idea why their parents cannot afford to pay the lunch fee.  it could be financial irresponsibility, it could be a terminal illness in the family, it could be mom's drug addiction, it could be a gambling dad while mom is desperately trying to hold on to the family, it could be unemployment, could be dad left mom and she is working two jobs trying to feed multiple kids with no familial support...we have NO idea.  and no child should have to suffer for that.  lunch is not a luxury.  for many children, this is the only meal they will get.  I cannot believe this is even a debate.  


I often hear people talk about the sacrifices that they make.  sacrifices are relative.  not everyone can make the same sacrifices you can.  

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