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Thursday, September 11, 2008

How not to run a school cafeteria

Whoever's running this operation needs to be given detention for life.

Comments (15)

There are so many things wrong with the way this is being handled that I hardly know where to begin.

In the first place, if they don't want to "waste food" then they shouldn't be checking the situation out AFTER the kids have loaded up their trays with food that will have to be discarded if it isn't paid for. If they had to discard the food, they might as well let the kid eat it.

In the second place, how hard would it be to make sure that the child's lunch fund/card/account/whatever was paid up AHEAD OF TIME - say, at the beginning or end of each month - to avoid humiliating students in front of their classmates and the rest of the lunchroom.

This is the only time I've heard of a cheese sandwich becoming a visible sign of poverty and shame. It's obvious to everyone in the school that little Johnny's family is too poor to pay for lunch when he comes away from the lunch counter stigmatized by a cold cheese sandwich. I'd guess that some kids refuse the sandwich rather than be seen with it.

Why is this setup running ass-backwards?

Marrion Elementary School located in Vancouver, Washington, where my kid goes they do the same thing. If I let the card run out, my kid gets the "emergency lunch".
a cheese sandwich.
Are we poor is the question I get asked by him, yes I answer.

mmm don't you love entitlements.

give and be taken advantage of

ask for what is rightfully yours and be guilted into submission.

There is no easy way to handle this situation, although it wouldn't be a bad idea to implement some kind of receivables management program where accounts are due at the end of the school year, plus interest, and subject to collections and garnishments (on the parents of course). Withholding a high school diploma and transcripts is not a bad idea for that age group as it is routine in all colleges.

Reminds me of a line in Caddyshack where the judge's son orders a long list of items from the golf course canteen.

The judge replies: "You'll get nothing and like it."

Wow, yet somehow they can afford to give breakfast and lunch all summer for free to any family member (and bus them to the school to get it.) I guess its not all about compassion and caring for the kids.

Oops, I didnt realize that was in Washington. It may only be Oregon schools that do the summer lunch program.

I think the summer lunch is a Federal program.

Its an unorthodox approach to teaching responsibility, but I can't say I disapprove. The kids don't go hungry, but have a motivation to remember to bring their lunch money. It doesn't affect that occasional mistake -- you forget, you bring the money the next day, all good. Heck, its a $10 limit, so you could "forget" for two days,settle up on the third, rinse & repeat.

If a student's family doesn't have the ability to pay, then the parents need to take responsibility to enroll their child into the free or reduced price meal program.

The alternative is to let these kids think there is no consequence to borrowing money and using credit. They'll learn that only receiving an "emergency" lunch is a far nicer deal than the eventual garnishment they'll face later in life when they don't pay their other credit-related bills.

Maybe we could persuade Merritt Paulson to make a $28.5 million dollar donation to subsidize school lunch programs.

Given that he wants us to write off the $28.5 million worth of PGE Park bonds that remain outstanding, and then give him another $75 million of taxpayer funds, it only seems fair the kids should get a hot lunch during the school year.

I "get" that they can't give away food for free, but they sure are implementing it in a bizarre and downright stupid way. How about checking the card before the kid gets in line? And throwing away the food? Geez!!!

Some kids are just forgetful, and maybe the money was left on their dresser. Eating the embarassing cheese sandwich might help them "remember" their money the next day. More than likely, it's that the parents are not paying attention, don't give a damb or have no money. They are behind on the food account at school, just like they are behind on their bills at home. Some people live their lives in complete disorder, so why would their school lunch accounts for the kids be any different?

Sad for the kids who are growing up this way with such dysfunction. Poor is one thing, lack of responsibility on the parents part is another. We can only hope that somebody is looking out for the kids and is helping the parents get them on some sort of assistance. And for the record, when I grew up I would have been thrilled with a cheese sandwich! A typical lunch for us was Wonder Bread and bologna, and a piece of fruit that was on sale that week. We didn't have the much growing up, but we always had something. And cafeteria food? We only got to have a cafeteria lunch once per week as a luxury. When did brown bagging fall out of favor? It's typically more economical than buying lunch if you shop wisely.
I guess we have to teach THAT to people now as well?

This is not the fault of children forgetting to bring lunch money. It's the parents.

I don't know about other school districts, but in PPS, lunch is not really a cash transaction. Parents load up the kid's barcoded card (you can come into school and do it with cash or check, or you can do it online for a nominal fee and actually get an email when the balance falls below $5- a feature I love). I would suspect that most districts have some kind of automated system like this. When a kid is "overdrawn" they can still have salad bar and milk, though I think they'll let you run a negative balance for a while and a note gets sent home. So if you don't qualify for free/reduced lunch (a federal entitlement, I believe) then there's really no excuse for subjecting a child to this scenario.

Ugh. The Edmonds School District and the school board apparently have the creativity and the heart of the TSA. As a debtor's bankruptcy attorney, this is extremely disturbing yet sadly doesn't shock me in the slightest. Totally heartless with many better alternatives. It never occurred to the district to hire staff to help recoup the funds or to help qualifying families complete the free/reduced lunch applications?

It's only a matter of time until HSBCitiBankofAmeriChase gets involved and starts demanding a percentage. They could impose interest, late fees, attorney's fees, and hey - why not kick parents' credit card accounts into "universal default" when the kid forgets his lunch money for 3 days in a row?!

The Edmonds District boundaries cover a fairly wide variety of households across a range of incomes, and I think the potential impact on kids of this public shaming technique is serious. I hope media coverage provokes a public outcry and a demand that the Board and the District come up with a better and more realistic solution.

It's only a matter of time until HSBCitiBankofAmeriChase gets involved and starts demanding a percentage.

Well stated Dainen P.
And so TRUE!

Sometimes it is the kid's problem. When my kids were in PPS, I sent a check on the first school day of the month to load onto their lunch cards; sometimes the check came home several times before they remembered to give it to the cafeteria workers.

And of course they refuse to refund at the end of the year, so about April I'd start waiting until the money ran out before putting in a little more...which didn't work so well when the kids forgot to tell me they were out of lunch money. I didn't want to give the school a month's worth of lunch money!

Also, because different items cost different amounts, I couldn't be sure how long $50 would last, and the school doesn't provide any accounting of how it was spent.

When I was in grade school, no lunch ticket meant NO LUNCH. I bet the parents have plenty of smokes though.

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