Mom says school dumped her son’s lunch over $2.75 bill

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AUBURN — A Pierce County mom is furious at a new school lunch program that she says cost her 8-year old son a normal meal — and also humiliated him.

Because he didn’t have $2.75 in his account, she said, the cafeteria workers threw it in the trash.

Carol Woolery said she has been dealing with an illness this week and forgot to put more money in her son’s lunch account, and he apparently paid for it in humiliation.

“He was bawling because he was embarrassed,” said Woolery. “Crying because other kids were making comments to him about it, and embarrassing him even more.”

The cafeteria workers did give Woolery's son what is called an emergency meal, consisting of a cheese sandwich and apple. But she calls that pathetic and wants the system changed.

"I think it’s ridiculous," said Woolery. "They need to figure out some other way of handling it."

No one from the Auburn School District was available to talk, but on the district's website is an announcement about a new lunch charging policy. If a student has no money in their account, they can’t have a normal lunch, only the emergency meal.

Other districts are also creating new policies to deal with delinquent lunch bills, but they often spark outrage. Last spring, a Kent father told us his son’s lunch was tossed in the trash because he was short 26 cents.

Woolery said she plans to keep plenty of money in her son's lunch account from here on out. But still wants the policy to change, she said, because it’s the students who end up suffering.

"It’s not fair to them. OK, the parents had an oversight, messed up whatever. Don’t make them get humiliated at school because of this."





carol told us the principal here did apologize.. and said he would talk to the distrits child nutrition deparmtent to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.

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    This is crazy!! This happened to my son in Kent school district. Appaerntly his account was negative for like $6.00 and not even a few days, I had just not put the money in his account. they told him he could not get a normal lunch and got a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!! Kids of course laughed at him and he felt bad and then told me about it. What ever happened to No kid should go hungry??? They are there like 6 hours!! sometimes parents do overlook things and not intentionaly either it’s just life… But ofcourse you have those people that ALWAYS have something to say..

    • Christie

      It’s unfortunate that he was made fun of, as no kid should have to go through that. I have kids in public and private school. It is almost every school’s policy to do this, and for parents to say they forgot or was too busy, is just plain pathetic. We are all busy, we all have something going on. The student received a lunch, they didn’t stave. Kids here get more from an emergency lunch than kids on the street or a third world country!
      Be thankful your child didn’t starve, be thankful your child is educated, and think not only for yourself but how it impacts the people around you. It’s $2, for you, $6 for the next all adds up. The school district barely has money to pay our teachers!! Pack your kids lunch if you don’t have the money to pay..
      Lastly, I pack my kids peanut butter and jelly and it is not an emergency lunch and they are not ashamed to eat it!!

      • sarah

        You seriously miss the point and how dare you say that throwing away a perfectly good lunch and handing him a cheese sandwich and not charging his account for said sandwich makes any kind of sense! Its wasteful and costs more money than having a parent owe a fee.. Lets just say this… I have no lunch money, But I don’t know why? Because mom put 40 in my account last tuesday… But johnny was being charged twice as much for lunch for some unknown reason.. Maybe the extra cookie or milk or what have you that mom didn’t factor in.. I say the schools policy is idiotic. One, they throw away the meal in front of the kid.. You can’t afford it so its going in the waste? Yeah really fixing the problem. Also Cheese and bread costs money also.. You are a part of the problem Christie.

      • shortstack

        Christie, we all know your type, you’re not fooling anyone: Boring, idiotic housewife, just waiting for a “justified” moment to vent some of that venom and disgust you feel for yourself onto other people. Do us a favor: go hold your head under water and take a deep breath. The school still spent the money on the lunch they threw away, and given that, throwing it away is not only cruel to the child, it’s wasteful–they still lose the money, the child is humiliated, and nobody wins. Here’s an easy solution: If a child runs up a significant lunch balance, you simply do not promote him to the next grade until such time as that balance is paid. Problem solved, and nobody had to be humiliated, nor any lunches wasted.

      • Julianne Ormel

        Well said, Christ. Thank you! Unfortunately, we live in a world where people feel entitled to everything their hearts desire with little thought to how it gets paid for. There are few s hook lunch programs that are making a profit, most run in the red and do what they can to balance their budgets. Families on limited incomes qualify for free or reduced prices meals so our country’s most needy are still being fed. You wouldn’t go into subway and expect to get your sandwich if you got to the register and didn’t have any money to pay for it, so why would it be different at school? It’s unfortunate that the child was embarrassed and I agree that it could have been handled differently but the answer is not to just get upset at the school when it is the parents responsibility to make sure their kids get fed, whether it means sending them a lunch or money to buy it at school!

      • dee

        Really Christie, when it happens to your child for what ever the reason maybe, let me know how it makes you fill. shit happens and people are human and they can forget, I guess you are perfect and never forgets. So sad.

  • Kenneth Briggs

    so did the bitch pay for the lunch she tossed away ? after all she should of , if her ass can throw it away it still cost money , so why not let the kids have it and send a note home with the kids ? this bitch should be charged for it . if not then fire her ass .

  • Kathy Higgins

    i work the schools and we do have the emergency meals too. we also have a “share bin” set up for kids who dont have enough to eat or need a little extra. The way that program works is that if other students have things that they dont want to eat they can put it in a basket and other kids can grab from there. We feel this has really helped the kids who dont have enough money for lunch, they are welcome to go to it. It is not in control by the food services, it is strictly voluntary with the other students. we have had this in act for years and it works. Another thought would be what if a system was set up like the Good to go pass but for their lunches. money can be put in an account for them , when they run out, another small amount of money is deposited into their account and a statement is sent to the parent before it is going to be drawn and when it has been drawn. I dont know but thought it might be a good idea also.

  • T.

    What’s crazy about this IS SHE THREW THE MEAL IN THE TRASH!! Apparently the meal wasn’t worth any money anyway since it went in the trash. Or do they just not care because it’s not their money they lush down the toilet, it ours. And they wonder why taxpayers don’t want to pony up more money. If you were just going to waste the meal then let the kid eat it, not the flies!!

  • T.R

    Unbelievable….they would rather toss it then feed the child. Disgusting human beings…its not like it was coming out of the lunch persons pay check!

  • Viv

    Here’s what I don’t understand, they can THROW AWAY the lunch and then give them another lunch $$. What’s wrong with this picture?

  • Nicole Cornelison

    why do schools keep doing this? its not the kids fault, yet the suffer. why throw away perfectly good food over a parent mess up? many kids are starving and schools are just throwing food away, its ridiculous

  • Sweet Pea (@sahmof2cubs)

    This is stupid and has to change. I agree about how if they will throw the food out, it must not be worth $2.75! Send lunch from home. Its cheaper and the kid can pick out what he wants. Why aren’t more people doing it? I spend about 75c per lunch for my son. A whole jam sandwich, string cheese and/or carrots sticks, and a small water bottle with Sunny D or juice. (Sometimes a few plain pringles or grapes). The sandwich container and water bottle have an ice insert to keep stuff cold. The lunch times are pretty short, so any more food than that would be too much. He is looking for a snack when he gets home, but he isn’t starving. If I were wealthy, I’d bring homemade lunch for all the kids that didn’t have lunch to eat. No child should go hungry. It helps them do well in school too, not just for the physical need.

  • Ron Iverson

    So I’m confused. They are throwing away a full meal, at what cost, because the child did not have enough money to pay for it. Then they give the child an ’emergency meal’, at what cost. So what did that emergency meal cost, as you would have to add the meal they tossed in the garbage also. Who pays for the meals they throw in the trash? Hmmmm. So if the school is calculating these figures, makes you wonder what they are teaching the children.

  • Shelly

    I work for food service at an elementary school. and I hate when a kid doesn’t have enough money for their lunch and it isn’t their fault. But they do get a complimentary lunch instead. So they are not going hungry. it is one day. They almost always remember to bring money the next day. In my school district. they only take food away from the Older kids. By then they feel they need to learn to be responsible and keep track of money on their account. I still wish they would go back to what they had it when I started in 2001. It was each student was allowed 3 IOU’s. So that allowed time to get the parent to send in money in case they forgot. After the 3rd IOU they got a cheese sandwich sack lunch. A principal account has also worked at many schools. Where money is donated to a Principal account and students lunch can be put on that account and pay it back the next day. PS. That lunch lady in Auburn or anywhere is just doing their job. That is the districts policy. Get upset at the district rule. Not her.

  • Kat

    Why are so many lunches being thrown in the trash? At my sons school they have to go to the register first. If they don’t have the money in their account they are told BEFORE they get a tray. They get one lunch and if they don’t inform their parents that their account is negative they then get an emergency lunch. I have forgotten to replenish my sons account but when he tells me he had a cheese stick, crackers and milk for lunch not only had he remembered to tell me he needed lunch money, I sure don’t forget to replenish his account!

  • Kris Kuhnhen

    This happened to my son when he was in 7th grade. And I worked at the school. I wasnt aware he was a few dollars short and its not like I was going to run out on his bill. Just didnt know…They came out and humiliated him and took his lunch he had on a tray out of his hands…And dumped it…Makes no sense to me.I was livid and the principal changed the policy that it had to be $10 or more delinquent, which makes more sense because not all people can keep up with the cents owed in a lunch bill. Give parents a break..The government after all sends most of the ingredients used in the meals and so many kids get free meals anyway, why pick on the ones who pay their own way!!!!!

  • Debbie

    my child just started attending a new school within the tacoma school district. His previous school would let him ALWAYS have a lunch and let him know his balance was low. Yesterday he went to get a lunch and they generously handed him two pieces of bread with peanut butter ONLY and a carton of milk…I am NOT impressed! I feel horrible for NOT monitoring his balance. I am feel worse that my boy ate a dry peanut butter sandwich and that our schools feel so POOR that they can’t at least afford jelly and a piece of fruit!!!! #angryparent

  • sarah

    This happens here in
    as well. Funny thing is You deposit 40.00 and think your good for at least two weeks but you have no control over what the kids choose for lunch or even if they are being charged correctly. My son was being charged 8.00 a day for lunch thats over 3 times what the lunch should cost. I see not allowing them to purchase extra food from the normal lunch but they should be allowed to charge the basic lunch. Because often times the parents aren’t even aware the lunch money is gone until the child goes to school hungry.. I believe the school is breaking laws by not providing receipts for paid lunches. Especially when the lunch is 2. 75 but your child is charged over 8 dollars in my case. Yet when I asked what he had been ordering that ran up his lunch total. No one even bothered to respond. My son said he would get extra milk or ice-cream.. But that just seems ridiculous. So to combat the very easy possibility being ripped off and the fact that they are feeding junk to the kids anyways, I pack healthy lunches.. the only way to stop this nonsense is to not purchase their lunch from the school any longer. And then see what kind of changes the school will be willing to make.

  • Donna Cosey

    FYI if your child brings a school lunch but wants an extra milk even if that childs get free or reduced they charge the childs account $1.50. that one cup of milk costs about the same as the gentic milks 7/11 sells for twice the amount of milk

  • big john stankus

    So here’s an idea. Since we all agree that lunch is important – how about having the PARENT make sure they’ve put enough money into the account? It really IS that simple – instead of blaming others, take responsibility for your own actions.

  • Greg

    Oh boo hoo, there are multiple reminders sent to the parents and to go negative $6 when lunch is like a dollar means you ignored the notes, letters, and calls for over a week. Take some responsibility and quit hiding your irresponsibility behind your child.

  • NoMoOr

    I am so glad I grew up when I did (born 1956). People were responsible and schools / teachers cared about educating the students. I would like to know who that person was that through the lunch away and do the same to her cigarettes and lotto tickets.

  • C McClellan

    NO WAY would I fire her for that! INSTAED (hehe) next time she asked for a raise…………..I would simply reply: IT’S IN THE GARBAGE!

  • Islandia

    Shame on that school. Wasting food like that? Throwing perfectly good food right into the garbage rather than putting it into a child’s mouth? That is criminal when there are children not only starving all over the world, but also starving right here in our country and in our state. And shame on those other children who mocked him, and on their parents for raising their children to be insensitive enough to taunt this child for not having the money. What is wrong with people anymore? And shame on lunchroom adults for abusing a child in this manner – publicly humiliating him. Because really, this IS child abuse. Granted, people in some school districts still have the choice to send food to school with their children. In other school districts, there’s a strict No Outside Food policy. Meaning that if the child doesn’t have the money, they will have to take the emergency lunch, and be shamed by adults and other children. This is not a compassionate way to treat children.

  • Dianna

    So sorry to hear about this, no Child should have to go through something like that… the lynden school district has been remarkable, I usually send my child with a 50 dollar check or sometimes a 20.00 dollar check for there teacher, (my kids are 5 and 8) and I never know how close they are to the end.. but I have been 5.00 – 15.00 short and they have always sent home a notice that states what we are below and request a payment, but my kids have never been denied food at this district…. I am so sorry that your district isn’t cooperative on this … wish I could help..

  • Betty

    Woolery, you are clearly the problem! Just another abusive parent sending your kid’s to school with no means to feed themselves. You are a scammer and you should be turned over to CPS for starving your kids and expecting others to feed them. Emergency lunch is needed for the poor unfortunate kids with parents like you!

    Q13 shame on you for your 2nd rate reporting and sensationalism journalism, get the facts!

  • Clark Bartron

    1) Put money in your kids account regularly. He or she is your child, not a child of the state. If you’re up to date, then this NEVER happens.
    2) Realize that your inaction is what put your child in this situation to begin with. If you don’t pay your car payment, do you get upset at the person they pay to take your car away?
    3) It’s not your “lunch” until it’s paid for. Unfortunately, there are parents who are completely delinquent about paying their bill. Don’t ask the school district to figure out who is behind and who is a derelict. Again, see number one above.
    4) If you can’t manage #1, pack your kid a lunch.

    Can’t say I support the throwing out of the lunch in front of your kid, but I can’t say that I support your delinquency either.

  • Stacey

    This happened to my daughter today at Flowood Elementary because I didn’t realize her balance was low. She wasn’t even able to return to the classroom to retrieve money she had in her book bag.