Thursday, June 12, 2014

Throwing away lunch....

This Blog post is going to be a little different than my usual posts. Even though for most of you, it's the end of the school year and probably want to focus on suntans and flip flops... There is a problem that I wanted to address.

School lunches.

There.  I said it.

I am not going to talk today about the quality of school lunches, as that is a topic for a much lengthier rant.  Today, I am going to talk about a growing trend among schools to penalize a student(s) for not having enough money on their account to pay for their lunch.

Yesterday,  an article was posted (here) about a student in Washington state that was .26 short to purchase his lunch.  Instead of the school spotting him the .26, the nitwit tossed the lunch.  I can't even begin to tell you on how many levels this was WRONG.

My first thought was, how much brain power did it take to realize that the cost of throwing out that lunch was most likely over $4.00 (cost of food, employee prep time, and sanitation) and the humiliation that the student had to endure.  You can' really put a price tag on that.

This is the 3rd article I have read in the last week of this sort of thing happening.  Blah blah blah students should be responsible,  schools can't afford to feed all students, etc.  I've heard it all.  What I haven't heard is a solution to the problem.

NO CHILD should ever go hungry.  Period.   If the schools are so tight on costs, then they need to get out a #2 pencil and start going over the budget.  What I don't understand is why schools are making this a student issue?   Why not pick up the phone and call a parent or guardian?   Why not send a note home with the student ?   Heck, why doesn't the school provide a lunch program?  They do fund raisers for sports teams and other activities, why not do a fundraiser to create a fund for student lunches?

Here are some facts:

According to the Federal Education Budget Program,  in 2013 - 62% of student lunches were Federally funded (free lunch program), 8% were reduced, and 30% were paid.   This means that the families, of over half of the student population across the country is BELOW 130% of the annual income poverty level guideline.  (The income level that they look at is $23,850 for a family of 4.)

For the 2012-2013 school year, 30,700 million students in 98,433 schools and daycares were served lunch each day.  Out of that number 21.7 million students received free or reduced lunch.  (Data from the National School Lunch Program)

I spent some time doing a little research to find out how much food the school lunch programs throws away each day.  The numbers that I found were for food that students have thrown away, rather than food that the food services discard either due to preparing too much, or tossing because it wasn't purchased.

If we can have policies for what the students have in their lunch, there should be a cohesive plan to make sure that no student goes hungry. This isn't an issue that is just going to go away.  It most likely is going to get worse as the income levels go down, and it becomes harder for families to make it paycheck to paycheck.

If a school is going to throw food out, they should make sure that ALL students (whether they can afford to pay or not) can get something to eat.  How can they be expected to sit in class and learn without proper nutrition?

I'd love to hear from you to know what happens at your school.  Feel free to email me or leave me a comment below.


  1. Danielle,
    Great post. School Lunch programs, as a whole, perplex me. I realize that there are rules and regulations they have to follow but some of the things that happen blow my mind. Plus, the amount of unused food that gets thrown away is pretty sad (I'm not talking about what kids have left on their trays).

    Thanks for writing this.

  2. Danielle,

    Very thoughtful insight! I completely agree about the pointlessness (and cruelty) of throwing away perfectly good lunches... it is the responsibility of the parent, not the child, to keep their bills paid and shaming an innocent kid really isn't helping the matter. A school here in my home state (Utah) did that very thing earlier this year but the backlash was *hopefully* strong enough to prevent it from happening again.


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