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Posted on: September 18, 2019 at 9:06 pm

What’s worse than a child not getting lunch at school? A child getting lunch only to have it taken away and switched. In Green, Ohio, a grandmother, Diane Bailey, has called for a modification of the primary school’s lunch policy. This was after the embarrassing treatment her grandson had to endure from the school’s cafeteria staff. 

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On August 30, 2019, when 9-year-old Jefferson Sharpnack was sent home from Green Primary School. He had a note with him from the school, stating that he owed $9 in his lunch account. Bailey who has temporary custody of Jefferson and his siblings, called the school the next week to iron out the issue. 

She had earlier signed the kids up for the free and reduced lunch program offered by the school. When she reached out to the school, they let her know that she could make out a check to the school’s account for any debts her grandkids owed. That was until all paperwork related to the program got processed. Bailey then assumed that Jefferson was in the clear with the school. How terribly wrong she was [1].

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Now you see me, now you don’t    

On Tuesday, September 3, Jefferson experienced what could only be likened to the classic whack-a-mole game. The young boy had picked out cheesy breadsticks and put in his number. When he got to check-out, the lunch lady took the food away from his tray and kept them aside. She then replaced them with a piece of cold cheese and bread – direct from the fridge, all without so much as a word said to Jefferson.

One can only imagine how confused and hurt he must have been – on his birthday, no less. Certainly, she was doing her job by implementing the school’s policy, but without one word to the kid? That was probably unnecessary. 

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The aftermath   

Bailey told local Fox affiliate WJW, “He gets off the bus and he says, ‘Grandma! Worst birthday ever!’”[2].

 She said she was left in tears after her grandson suffered the humiliation.

“In my mind, he didn’t owe anything. I owed the money, the parents, the school district. And my other question is, if they take the food off of your tray, they have to throw it away. You would take the food off a tray and you can’t reserve it? You’re going to throw it away and not feed the child? That doesn’t make sense to me,” said Bailey.

The incident went viral that week, receiving a lot of attention and criticism from the public, including fellow parents in the district. Superintendent Jeff Miller was prompted to fix the policy – to let all students receive their standard lunches regardless of their account balance.

“We are sensitive to the financial hardship families incur, and challenges presented due to the cost of school breakfast and lunches. Our staff, in coordination with family support specialists, will continue to work with families to ensure they have access to all available resources to assist with purchasing school needs,” he said. 

In a statement issued by Green local schools, they said,

“It is important to us that students have positive experiences in the lunchroom and all areas of the school. For that reason, we will continue to look into our practices and come up with solutions that work for our students and families [3]”.

The world is filled with hungry kids who aren’t learning much in school 

The issue of hunger in schools is slowly becoming a global problem. Children do not deserve to go hungry in a place of earning. According to Harold Alderman and Don Bundy – in the 2011 World Bank Research Observer, food keeps kids in school. In-school feeding has a positive impact on school enrolment, learning activities, and social interaction skills. A well-fed child is a happy child.

Lunch isn’t something that should just be taken away from school children. Hopefully, all the policy changes are actually implemented, and not just in Green School, but in every school district in the country – and possibly the world. 

As for the mean lunch lady, the school principal – Krista Seals, said,

“We have spoken with our cafeteria staff already about how to handle things, maybe differently, and continuing to work with this family in particular as well [4].”

“Maybe differently?” How many more kids have to be disgraced with cold pieces of food until the cafeteria staff would be properly trained? It’s a sad reality.

  1. Justin Chan. Boy, 9, gets lunch taken away on his birthday over $9 debt. Aol. https://www.aol.com/article/news/2019/09/12/boy-9-gets-lunch-taken-away-on-his-birthday-over-dollar9-debt/23811699/. Retrieved 17-09-2019.
  2. Emily Hamilton. Grandmother calling for change after grandson experienced ‘worst birthday’ at Green Primary School. News 5 Cleveland. https://www.news5cleveland.com/news/local-news/oh-summit/grandmother-calling-for-change-after-grandson-experienced-worst-birthday-at-green-primary-school. Retrieved 17-09-2019.
  3. N’dea Yancey-Bragg. School changes lunch policy after taking away student’s cheesy breadsticks on his birthday. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/09/10/boy-9-has-school-lunch-switched-his-birthday/2274492001/. Retrieved 17-09-2019.
  4. Biggs. Food taken off boy’s lunch tray over $9 debt. Lipstick Alley. https://www.lipstickalley.com/threads/food-taken-off-boys-lunch-tray-over-9-debt.2752222/. Retrieved 17-09-2019.
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