Cafeteria Worker Throws Out Student's Lunch Because He's 26 Cents Short

Efforts to get parents to pay meal account debts go too far

Lunch tray
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A father is blasting his young son's school after a cafeteria worker at Kent, Washington's Mill Creek Middle School threw away the kid's lunch because he was 26 cents short.

"He gets up to the front and they say there's not enough in his account, so they take his food, and in front of him, throw it away," Jimmie Keys, the boy's father, told Komo News.

Keys's son told him this had happened twice in the past week, prompting his irate dad to confront school administrators. Lunches at the school cost 40 cents, and are paid for using a meal account system similar to a debit card. Parents are supposed to be alerted when meal funds are running low, but Keys said he was never notified.

"My first instinct was to get a huge jar of pennies, and get it ready," Keys said. "I was going to take it down to the school and throw it on 'em."

He didn't do that, but school district spokesperson Chris Loftis was quick to describe the incident as a terrible mistake. He also said that cafeteria workers, far from throwing out a child's food, are actually required to give students a free yogurt or cereal when they're short on funds.

"I just have to say sorry to this student, sorry to the parents," he said. "We made a mistake, we need to fix it, we're sorry."

Apparently, this is tied into the school's end-of-year effort to encourage parents to pay outstanding debts on meal accounts; the cafeteria worker, Loftis said, simply took the dictum too far. He added that in the future, parents will be given more time to add funds to their kids' meal accounts.

"We forgot the humanity of it," Loftis said. "We've learned from this. and the kindness of all of our workers is not going to be overwhelmed by the policies and procedures that we're required to follow."

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