Cafeteria Worker Resigns Over “Lunch Shaming” Policy

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A cafeteria employee says she has quit her job over something being called “lunch shaming,” where some students are being denied hot lunches over a new policy.

Stacy Koltiska, a former employee at Canon McMillan School District, says the school is essentially shaming students in an effort to get parents to pay for overdrawn lunch accounts.

She was so upset by the new policy, she quit just a few weeks into the new school year.

Koltiska spent two years working in the cafeteria at Wylandville Elementary, but last Thursday, she resigned after she had to take away hot meals from two children.

“His eyes welled up with tears. I’ll never forget his name, the look on his face,” she said.

The new policy at Canon McMillan, which was passed over the summer for grades K-6, says the hot meal item will be replaced by a sandwich if $25 or more is owed to the district for lunches.

For older kids, they will receive no lunch if the debt is $25.

KDKA’s Heather Abraham: How long after your first day, the kids’ first day back, did you actually have to enforce this?”

Koltiska: “The very first week of school on Friday.”

After it happened a second time, she posted her experience on Facebook, which has now been shared over 2,600 times. She says the children are the ones who are humiliated and embarrassed in the process.

“The woman I was working with was trying to get my attention, but I didn’t see ‘cause we’re serving so many kids, to tell me before I gave him the chicken to give him the cheese. But it was too late. He already had his tray,” Koltiska said.

Koltiska says due to other policies, she had to then throw away the hot lunch after taking it away.

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The district says parents were notified in an email or by letter in August before the school year.

Superintendent Michael Daniels says this is about collecting money owed, noting that parents are notified weekly of lunch balances.

He says, “There has never been the intent with the adoption of this policy to shame or embarrass a child.”

Daniels says before the policy, there were more than 300 families in deficit. As of last Friday, that number has gone down to 66. That equates a lot of money recouped by the district.

He says, “They fluctuated between $60,000 to $100,000 owed annually. Now, it’s down to less than $20,000” owed.

“I’m not saying the parents shouldn’t be held accountable, but I think there has to be a better way than involving the children,” Koltiska says.

More from Heather Abraham

One Comment

  1. If you can’t afford to pay for your kids school lunch, maybe you shouldn’t bear any children. That being said,of course this is ridiculous. Schools are not supposed to profit off of selling lunches. It should just pay for itself. The Taxes that are paid to these inept school districts through property taxes could by every kid a T-bone steak for lunch everyday. If i were a politician, I would hold all taxes for the school until investigated. I despise public schools.

  2. I understand what she is saying, i don’t think i could do that job either, but it must be done,

  3. The Farrell Area School District in Farrell, PA serves all students breakfast and lunch at no cost. Gone are the reduced and free lunch tickets which identified low to moderate income students. Studies have shown this may be the only balanced meal children will receive and this is how the backpack program began.

    1. John Dole says:

      ” serves all students breakfast and lunch at no cost” You means ” serves all students breakfast and lunch at the cost of taxpayers.” There you go, fixed it for you. It’s not the school’s job to feed your (or my) kids at the cost of other tax payers.

    2. Mavis, this should be done in all school districts. As taxpayers it is our job to take care of our own before sending aid all over the world. However, as this is not the policy, the district needs a better way that keeps the kids out of it.

      1. John Dole says:

        Why should it be the school’s job to feed a kid breakfast? That is what a FAMILY’s job is. And if the family can’t afford it, then there are already WIC, food stamps, food pantries, etc to provide. We do not need the government to feed our kids. People need to take personal responsibility for themselves and their familes.

  4. While I agree every effort should be made in any School District to recover lunch money that is owed. I do not agree with the practice of charging FULL price for a cheese sandwich when they are not receiving a FULL meal.

    This would be like paying FULL price for a car and only getting the tires. I also do not agree using the kids as pawns to force payment of the bill. Especially when it appears the school districts are dumping at least $20 K worth of food per school year each in the garbage. Couldn’t that be put to better us than for landfill fodder?

    I think the District/s need to come up with better solutions to collect these debts, reaching out to the Parents that owe them and stop using the children.

    1. Diane Mowery says:

      I am a cashier at a school and we have the same policy. What you do not understand, we do NOT charge for the cheese sandwich and apple juice, we give to a student with an outstanding balance. As a cashier, when a student reaches around $10, I tell them each day what their balance is, we have envelopes for them to take home, usually they do not want them (these are 7th and 8th grade students). At this grade they are allowed one charge, which again I tell them, “I am charging this, you need money tomorrow or you will get a cheese sandwich”. I saw this school sent out weekly notices on their child’s balances, our school also sends out notices. Parents may also go on line, to the school website, and see what their child is buying and balances in their account.

  5. My son was packing his lunch and bringing it to school. Thing is, he was tossing it into the garbage at school, then he’d get a school lunch with a huge bill that came to us long after. How in God’s name can a school get away with issuing credit to a minor, especially since he threw his perfectly fine lunch in the trash? Why should I be financially responsible? It’s not as if I am there to watch over him, I am at work. Just my two cents.

  6. This happens in Mayfield, OH as well, except that it doesnt matter if youre over -$25 or not… you get the cheese sandwich in elementary school and nothing in middle or high school. Went countless days without a lunch because the cashiers never notified me that i was under $1.

Comments are closed.

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