At least 25 middle school students in Massachusetts were denied lunch this week because they couldn't pay or prepaid accounts didn't have enough money, sparking outrage among local parents and school officials.
An onsite employee of Whitsons, a major food supplier, gave the order to not provide lunches to dozens of Coehlo Middle School students when it was disovered they couldn't pay, the Sun Chronicle in Attleboro, Mass., reports. Some of the students were forced to throw their lunches in the trash on Tuesday.
Superintendent Pia Durkin has placed the on-site director employed by Whitson Culinary Group on administrative leave and has scheduled a meeting with company executives, the Associated Press reports. Durkin has ordered Coelho’s cafeteria workers to feed all students, regardless of ability to pay.
"There is no way any child in my school district will ever go hungry," Durkin told the Sun Chronicle. "Children need to eat."
She said a school policy that any student who can't afford to pay for lunch is to receive a cheese sandwich and milk was ignored.
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"We agree that this situation was not handled correctly," Whitsons spokeswoman, Holly Von Seggern, told the Sun Chronicle. "We really want to apologize to the parents of the children who were affected."
Victoria Greaves, 11, a fifth grader at the school, said students who had received lunch without paying were told to throw their food in the trash. Her father, John Greaves, said on Wednesday "there are people in prison who are getting meals, my daughter, an honor student, is going hungry."
Whitson officials have informed the school that the total outstanding credit balances on all students' accounts is about $1,800. Durkin said she plans to meet with the company's president, John Whitcomb, on Friday.