Recently a Salt Lake City school came under fire for stealing food from up to 40 defenseless grade schoolers.
That’s right, food that the students had not paid for was forcefully taken from their hands and dumped in the trash because health code requires that food handled by anyone who is not a food handler cannot be sold to anyone else. Also, the school board wants poor children to starve and die. It’s gone so far that the good and well-intentioned people of the internet have taken to making memes to explain that this is obviously the government’s fault.
Okay, so here’s what I think really happened, and why we should all calm down. And stop reading sensational headlines.
I read the story, and there are a couple of facts that have been glossed over… or ignored, just ignored. The facts do still stand that children had lunches taken from them and thrown away. However, let’s look at a couple important points that change the outcome of the story and shed light on the real problem.
- “the meals were taken and thrown away because of outstanding balances on their accounts”
In essence, these children had already been taking food without paying. Apparently the consequences were a result of previous action (or lack thereof).
- “‘It was pretty traumatic and humiliating,’ said Erica Lukes, whose 11-year-old daughter had her cafeteria lunch taken from her as she stood in line Tuesday”
If someone had taken a sandwich away from you while you were in the checkout line at Walmart, did they take your sandwich? Or did they take the sandwich you were planning to pay for and hadn’t paid for yet? If anyone, an eleven-year old or a McDonald’s manager or that guy at BestBuy were to claim that something was already theirs, that they owned it and it was their property, because they had it in their cart in the line, most of us would scoff and walk away. If I have 5 dollars, and I put a $2,000 sound system in my cart and try to get through the checkout, the cashier will either tell me to put it back or take it from me and say, “Come back when you have the money to buy that”. The lunch was not hers because she had not paid for it yet, and America is not a communist nation. (Arguably, it was also not hers because she’s not a politician, nor had she planted a flag in the sandwich claiming it as her own.)
- “Uintah had a large number of students who owed money for lunches.”
The school already had a large number of students taking lunch without paying? Keep thinking about that one.
- “cafeteria workers weren’t able to see which children owed money until they had already received lunches”
So the children end up with lunch in hand before they pay for it. Let’s visualize for a sec’ here. As an example, the students enter the lunch line on the left hand side of the cafeteria. They get a tray and shift to the right as they move down the line. They get their chicken nuggets, move to the right, get their potatoes, move to the right, get a chocolate milk, move to the right, grab a fruit cup dessert, turn around and pay in order to leave the line. It works kind of like a grocery store: They come in through the entrance, get the food, and pay to go out the exit with the food. Does the guy stocking the avocados at Walmart know if you actually have money when you put 13 of them in your cart? Understand the position of the cafeteria workers now?
- “once food is served to one student it can’t be served to another”
The health code violation I mentioned earlier would have students that couldn’t pay for the food giving food illegally to other kids and violating the health code.
- “Children whose lunches were taken were given milk and fruit instead.”
So they weren’t left to starve? They got milk and fruit? Without paying? That’s more than I have for lunch sometimes. When I do pay.
- “staffers typically tell students about any balances as they go through the lunch line and send home notifications to parents each week.The district attempted to contact parents with balances via phone Monday and Tuesday”
Wait… So the parents knew about the balance? The parents know about the balance every week? The district attempted to contact parents with balances? Everyone in debt knew that the lunches would be taken from students who didn’t pay? And the parents didn’t do anything? Blame, blame, blame. Let’s just pass the buck on to somebody else, because we don’t want it to be our fault. And in the meantime, call the media!
I have an easy solution for this problem. No grown-ups will be able to take kids lunches! No kids will take things without paying either! This satisfies the liberals and the conservatives! A perfect middle ground! A lunch-time utopia!
Pay before you get your lunch. Problem solved.