Lunch denied to some Attleboro students
BY RICK FOSTER SUN CHRONICLE STAFF | Posted: Thursday, April 4, 2013 2:30 am
ATTLEBORO As many as 25 students at Coelho Middle School were denied
meals or told to throw their lunches away Tuesday because they could not
pay or their pre-paid accounts did not contain enough money, school
officials said today.
Parents said some of the children cried after they were not allowed to
eat or had to toss out their lunches.
School officials said an on-site employee from Whitson s, the school
system s school lunch provider, apparently gave the order not to extend
meals to students who could not pay or whose credit was already
A Whitson s spokeswoman apologized today for the incident.
Superintendent Pia Durkin said school officials were not informed of the
policy and that the principal did not find out until late Tuesday afternoon.
Durkin said today that school administrators have since ordered
cafeteria workers not to refuse any children lunch and have scheduled a
meeting with Whitson s officials.
Durkin also said she placed the on-site director employed by Whitson s
on administrative leave.
There is no way any child in my school district will ever go hungry,
Durkin said. Children need to eat.
Durkin said a procedure that has been used in the past when students can
not pay is to provide a cheese sandwich and milk until parents resolve
their unpaid bills. She said that has apparently not been followed at
Parents said they were told by their children that some pupils in the
cafeteria line had already picked up their lunch and were told at the
checkout they had to throw it away.
Victoria Greaves, 11, a fifth grader at Coelho, said a cashier told her
to throw away her lunch because there was not enough money in her
account. She said she threw her meal away and got nothing to eat.
Greaves said about 20 other pupils also were denied meals.
Victoria s father John, who met his daughter after school Wednesday,
said he was incensed by the incident and that he did not receive a call
from the school.
I m pissed that when there are people in prison who are getting meals,
my daughter, an honor student, is going hungry, he said. Had he known,
he would have brought his daughter lunch money, John Greaves said.
Jen Ingemi, parent of a fifth grade boy, said the girl behind her son in
line began crying when she was told to throw her lunch away. He said her
son offered to share his lunch.
This is absolutely outrageous, said Ingemi.
School Principal Andrew Boles said he learned of the problem late
Tuesday afternoon when contacted by a parent. Boles said he is appalled
and concerned that Whitson s did not inform him of the action in advance.
They did not respect me, they did not respect my students and they did
not respect their parents, he said.
Boles said a cafeteria worker spoke to assistant Principal Susan Fortin
about students receiving lunch on credit, but did not say students would
be forced to throw away their meals.
However, one parent was told by his children that an announcement was
made by the assistant principal while meals were being given out that if
they could not pay, students would not receive a meal.
Holly Von Seggern, vice president for marketing and community relations
for Whitson s, said the company apologizes for the incident and promised
a full investigation.
We agree that this situation was not handled correctly, Vonseggern
said. We really want to apologize to the parents of the children who
Vonseggern said unpaid balances on students accounts are an increasing
problem among school lunch providers, but that Attleboro students
payments are not out of control.
Durkin said she was informed by the company s management that the total
amount of outstanding credit balances on all students accounts in the
district comes to about $1,800.
Durkin said Whitson s management employees are in the school district
today and that she expects to meet Friday with company President John
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*This* is what happens when you contract out services that should be
provided directly by the school.