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Student’s Breakfast Thrown Away Over 30¢

A Texas mom says she’s angry over a breakfast thrown away by a cafeteria worker because the child was short 30 cents in the cafeteria line.

Let’s say you work in a school cafeteria and a child who’s already on a reduced lunch plan — a sign his parents already fall below an income limit and that the meals he eats at lunch may be the only fully balanced meals he gets — walks up with his breakfast.

You tell him that the total due is 30¢. His food account is empty and he doesn’t have the 30¢.

Forget school policy for a moment. Forget the rules.

What would you do?

Would you take the food from the child and throw it away because he couldn’t pay the 30¢? That’s what a Texas mom says happened at her son’s school.

Her son called her, she says, and asked if she’d bring him money because the account he uses to pay for his reduced lunches was empty. The school, based on a policy of not allowing students to “charge” breakfast, refused to serve the child food until they had money in hand and sent the child to class.

The school says that students are told to let their parents know when their money accounts start to get low. In addition, it says written warnings are sent home before the money runs out.

This particular mom says either her son forgot to relay a warning or she forgot to add money to the account.

I’d say it was likely both at the same time.

Still, mistakes happen. It would be one thing if the child was trying to buy a school t-shirt to show off his campus pride. But we’re talking about a middle schooler who had to go without breakfast.

Is it worth being that hardline over 30¢ when a child needs a meal?

Common sense, it seems to me, would have been to feed the child, then call the parents immediately and tell them that he wouldn’t be allowed back into the cafeteria until he paid up on the balance due.

Sure, it’s a little extra paperwork.

But it’s also nourishing a child. Shouldn’t that be more important?

Your Turn:

What do you think? Should the school or school district change its policy? Should the cafeteria worker just gone out on his or her own and let him eat with the promise of paying the bill the next day?


  1. I would have given him the 30 cents out of my own pocket but warned him that I wouldn’t do that a second time.  There’s no good reason that boy had to go hungry.

  2. Ahhh…a mighty fine example of the absence of actual thought in our education system.  Zero tolerance = zero thought and, unfortunately, that mindset permeates other aspects of the educational experience.  In fairness to the worker, I suspect he/she has been through a number of training sessions wherein the directive was stressed that “the rule is the rule is the rule” and was simply trying to keep a $10-12/hr job.  Perhaps the worker doesn’t deserve a break on this one, but I try to be a “both sides of the issue” kinda guy.
    Now that I’ve tried to give the worker an out…..
    What the heck was this worker thinking?!?  Either push it through or toss in the $.30 and call it a day.  We have all dealt with bad policies and procedures and were faced with a decision: (a) hide behind the policy, refuse to apply thought and good judgment to the issue and let what we know to be the wrong thing happen or (b) do what we know is right and then follow-up by trying to affect change to the policy or procedure so the situation does not reoccur.  My approach has always been to man up and do the right thing.
    Please people…use whatever amount of brain power with which you have been blessed!

  3. That is pretty ridiculous. Especially over $.30. I can’t believe any school — in this day and age — would hardline that. Now, if it had happened for a week straight, I understand. But if this was some sort of oversight/mistake etc.? Come on. And if I’m the cafe worker, I’m reaching into my pocket for 30 cents and paying and telling the little guy to make sure he tells his folks to up the account because I wouldn’t be able to do it again etc. 
    Crazy that they would actually throw the lunch away instead.

  4. In our school district–at least when my son was in school–if you’re account was below zero, you got a PBJ (at least for lunch) and a note to take home. I think I recall getting a call too, and they might send emails these days. No one went hungry: the school kept a stock of Uncrustables ( for just this purpose, and I have to assume that for peanut-allergic people they had a backup.
    Feed the kid. It’s not necessarily his fault he’s got no money, and there are more kids going hungry in this country than we usually realize.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.