Student has lunch thrown in the trash by cafeteria worker because 'she was 15 cents short'
With homework, gym class and detention, there was a lot in my school days I was not particularly a fan of, but school lunches were surprisingly not terrible (given their reputation). Going to a public school meant that you could get all kinds of neat morsels - like a slice of pizza, if you were lucky - but you also had to pay for them.
One particular Friday, I got too carried away with my lunch, and picked up an iced bun that, in hindsight, I probably could have done without. Getting to the counter, I realised too late that I was a couple of coins short, and began to panic, scrambling to put away that damned ice bun. But as I did so, the lunch lady held up a calming hand.
"Don't worry about it. Pay the rest of it on Monday," she said, and more than a decade later, that act of kindness is a moment that's still fresh in my mind, and one I'll probably never forget. I was pretty lucky that afternoon; this student out in Orlando, Florida, was not.
Speaking to news outlet WKMG, Kimberly Aiken recounted the story of how her daughter headed to the front of the lunch line at school. Aiken's daughter was signed up to the for the free and reduced-cost lunch program at University High School, Orlando, but when she gave her account number for her lunch, she was found to be 15 cents in the red.
Aiken believes that the deficit was probably carried over from last year, but the cafeteria worker in question here was having none of it. "[Aiken's daughter] puts her food on the tray, gets to the front, gives her number to the cashier, and she says, 'Well, you owe 15 cents,'" Aiken said of the cafeteria worker. "My daughter said she didn't have any money, so the cashier took her food."
Reportedly throwing the perfectly good food in the trash, Aiken says that her daughter went hungry her on her first day of school in sophomore year, and questioned the logic of not letting a student eat for the entire day in a potentially productive learning environment for the debt of 15 cents.
"That's the big thing -- it's eat breakfast, lunch, so that they can make sure that they're doing good on their work. But then you starve my child?"
"You want to make sure that your kids are coming to school, and they're going to be taken care of," Aiken added. "We already have all of the scary things happening, but the one thing you don't want them to worry about is are they going to be able to eat when they go to lunch."
When contacted for comment, a spokesperson for the school district, Roger Edgcomb, said: "The school is always willing to work with students and families as needed. The school will be contacting the family directly to help resolve this issue."
Aiken says that when her daughter went to school the next morning to pay off her debt, the cafeteria worker said that she no longer owed money, and that the situation had been taken care of.