Minnesota school apologizes for throwing away hot meals of students with over $15 lunch debt
State Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders slammed the act even as school authorities acknowledged that it was not right. The students' hot meals were replaced with cold ones.
Democratic politicians like Bernie Sanders and Ilhan Omar have condemned the recent incident in a school in Minnesota where the cafeteria workers were found throwing away hot meals of students who were found to have lunch debt.
The school, Richfield High School came under fire on Monday, November 11, after around 40 students found their hot lunches being thrown away and replaced with a cold lunch, KARE 11 reported. The students had lunch debt of more than $15.
The school district later apologized after a video of the incident came to the fore, saying in a statement on Monday: "We deeply regret our actions today and the embarrassment that it caused several of our students. We have met with some of the students involved and apologized to them."
Steven Unowsky, Richfield superintendent, told KARE 11 that the cafeteria staff members’ actions were “inappropriate”. “There are multiple failures we had in this situation and our job is to fix it. First and foremost [in] the way we treated our kids. We should never leave kids with the feeling they had from the experience,” he said.
The school also said that the students should not be told about their lunch debt publicly and rather a social worker of guidance counselor should be asked to do the job. It also objected to the act of taking away hot lunch from a student’s tray, even if he/she had money to be paid. Richfield High School Principal Latanya Daniels also supported the superintendent’s thoughts and said it was an “absolute” failure and said the school was trying to rectify the mistakes.
Omar called the incident “shameful” even after the apology was made. “This is shameful. No student should be denied food PERIOD,” she said in a tweet on Wednesday. It may be mentioned here that Omar, the Minnesota Congresswoman, introduced a bill (“No Shame at School Act”) with fellow Minnesota Democratic Senator Tina Smith in June to put an end to school lunch-debt shaming.
“Across this country, students whose families are struggling to afford school meals are being singled out and humiliated at lunchtime. No child should incur a debt because of their financial constraints beyond their control,” she said in a statement then.
Criticizing the incident at the Richfield High School, located a few miles south of Minneapolis, Sanders said in a tweet: “This is outrageous. When we're in the White House, we're going to make sure that no student goes hungry at a public school and we're going to eliminate the stigma surrounding children who get free or reduced lunch
In October, Omar and Sanders, who is running for the presidency next year, also introduced the “Universal School Meals Program Act” to provide free breakfast, lunch and dinner to every student in the US.