Kids all over the country eat hot lunch at school, but what happens when they can't pay for it? Kindergartener Anya Howard was singled out by staff and teased by classmates when she found herself in this situation.
In many schools, elementary students line up for their school lunches and pay with a lunch card. Their parents are responsible for loading the card with money. At South West Elementary School, the Indiana school that Anya attends, the policy is to notify parents when the lunch account drops to $5. But in her case, they failed to do so. This resulted in Anya being "lunch shamed".
After being served her food, Anya was told that her lunch card did not have enough funds to cover the $2.25 lunch. She was asked to return her tray and head to the back of the line, where she waited for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Other students laughed and taunted her as she passed them.
According to Greenwood Community Schools Superintendent Kent DeKoninck, this is a standard procedure. Superintendent DeKoninck claims that students are allowed to charge two meals before being refused and served a simpler lunch like the peanut butter and jelly Anya received. The superintendent also stated that such a situation should be handled in a discreet manner.
In Anya's case, it appears that the school failed to follow the procedures in place. Her account had just ten cents in it when she was denied her hot food, and her family had not received a reminder letter. She was not allowed to charge any meals, and the whole scenario was dealt with without any discretion. In fact, forcing a kindergartener to return her food and walk past a line of jeering classmates is quite the opposite of discreet!
Perhaps Anya's family needed to pay more attention to how often they deposited funds towards her lunch card. On the other hand, the school's policy is to send a reminder letter. Most parents would trust the school to follow their own procedures, and make an exception if they failed to. If the parents couldn't pay, that's another issue altogether. In any case, embarrassing the little girl was definitely not the right approach.