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Resigned Cafeteria Worker Brings Attention to Nationwide ‘Lunch-Shaming' Policies

Resigned Cafeteria Worker Brings Attention to Nationwide ‘Lunch-Shaming' Policies

A cafeteria worker who has since resigned from her position is bringing attention to a policy that will break any reasonable person’s heart; for children whose parents owe over $25 in overdue lunch fees in a Pennsylvania elementary school, they are denied the option of hot food and must instead be given cheese on untoasted bread.

Stacy Koltiska took to Facebook to voice her concern over the policy, a policy that was implemented for the first time this year to rectify tens of thousands of dollars in overdue lunch fees.

Koltiska claims that the policy is nothing short of lunch-shaming, as students who must receive the cheese-and-bread lunch option are charged the same price as hot food. Meanwhile, she says, leftover hot food is consistently thrown out after every school day.

It was a specific incident that forced Koltiska to resign and go public with her story despite being otherwise satisfied with the job.

"The first week of school on Friday, I had to take a little first grade boys chicken and give him this 'cheese sandwich'. I will never forget the look on his face and then his eyes welled up with tears,” she said on her Facebook page.

The post has since been shared over 6,000 times as parents, teachers and other individuals from all over the country express their concern for future students who could be embarrassed and shamed by the policy.

Unfortunately, this practice is not unique to Wylandville Elementary School but is rather a common practice across the country as schools struggle financially to accommodate students’ lunch needs.

An article from The Atlantic published months prior to the incident in February discusses exactly what has made Koltiska so upset.

How should school districts handle overdue lunch payments?

Most people can agree that the idea of children being denied access to certain food while at school—or even worse, having their lunch taken back or thrown out—isn’t the answer. So what is?

”. . . behind the outrage lurks a larger issue. Survey data from the advocacy group School Nutrition Association shows that overdrawn lunch accounts create real financial challenges for school districts, forced to weigh mounting costs against unsatisfied students and families,” Atlantic reporter Melinda Anderson points out.

Unfortunately, while the article details the negative effects that food insecurity and lunchroom embarrassment can have, it doesn’t offer the quick-fix solution that would put us all at ease. 

Dealing with food delinquency—add it to the agenda of what to fix in our nation’s K-12 schools.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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