As many as 25 middle school students in Massachusetts were denied lunch Tuesday
because they had a zero balance on their pre-paid cards.
Students at Coelho Middle School in Attleboro, Mass. went hungry Tuesday after employees from Whitson's, the school system's lunch provider, denied meals to some and ordered others who couldn't pay to throw their lunches away. Some of them reportedly cried when they were told they couldn’t have anything to eat.
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School Superintendent Pia Durkin said she wasn't informed of the incident until later that day, but Whitson's on-site director was immediately placed on administrative leave when she caught wind of the situation. Cafeteria workers have also been ordered never to refuse lunch to any child again.
"There is no way any child in my school district will ever go hungry," Durkin told Massachusetts' The Sun Chronicle. "Children need to eat."
School policy states that students whose pre-paid cards have a negative balance are to be given a cheese sandwich, a fruit and vegetable, and milk for lunch. The company is then supposed to contact the parents about payment.
John Greaves, whose 11-year-old daughter Victoria had picked up her lunch in line but was then forced to throw it away, said if he had been notified, he would have brought lunch money to the school.
"I'm pissed that when there are people in prison who are getting meals, my daughter, an honors student, is going hungry," he told the Chronicle.
A Whitson's spokesperson said the company had "no idea" that some of its contracted employees let students go hungry. Spokesperson Holly Von Seggern promised a full investigation.
"We agree that this situation was not handled correctly," Von Seggern told the Chronicle. "We really want to apologize to the parents of the children who were affected."
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