What kind of people can do this?

Sometimes I despair at how people can seem to lack the kind of normal human instinct that should kick in when asked to do something that seems so obviously wrong. Take what happened at an elementary school in Utah.

Up to 40 kids at Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City picked up their lunches Tuesday, then watched as the meals were taken and thrown away because of outstanding balances on their accounts — a move that shocked and angered parents.

Jason Olsen, a Salt Lake City District spokesman, said the district’s child-nutrition department became aware that Uintah had a large number of students who owed money for lunches.

As a result, the child-nutrition manager visited the school and decided to withhold lunches to deal with the issue, he said.

But cafeteria workers weren’t able to see which children owed money until they had already received lunches, Olsen explained.

The workers then took those lunches from the students and threw them away, he said, because once food is served to one student it can’t be served to another.

The school district has gone into damage control mode and apologized.

But what bothers me is you would think that there is some basic instinct in everyone that would have caused someone to say, “Wait a minute. Taking a child’s lunch and throwing it away not only makes no sense at all but is unbelievable cruel and humiliating. We have to deal with this in another way.” But that does not seem to have happened.

Even the thought of withholding lunches because some parents hadn’t paid strikes me as inhumane. But this is the new normal, where cutting food stamps for the poor and denying little children school lunches because they cannot afford to pay is justified as ‘being financially responsible’ instead of what it truly is, an attack on the poor because they are the most defenseless.


  1. Chiroptera says

    Holy shit! This really brings in sharp relief how we think of poverty.

    It’s cruel enough that kids should starve because parents can’t afford food. But to take away lunches that they were already given, which can’t be given to anyone else, and just throw them away does nothing but show that they are going to go hungry just out of spite!

    Christ. Now it’s piss on poor kids season.

  2. Chiroptera says

    Oh, and it would be interesting to hear about the opinions on this by all those rich bastards who claim to be so afraid of the upcoming rich people’s holocaust!

  3. kyoseki says

    Clearly it’s in the kid’s best interests to have their lunches thrown away…

    … I mean, if we don’t, they’ll get reliant on society providing them with free lunches and will never seek to provide their own lunch.

    … or some bullshit like that.

  4. wtfwhateverd00d says

    What I want at schools are kids too hungry to learn. And shame. Especially the shame.

  5. Tecolata says

    Because life begins at conception and ends at birth. Fertilized eggs are people, real live children are bad examples trying to get a free ride.

  6. Al Dente says

    The school was calling parents on Monday and Tuesday. Most people get paid on Friday and if they’re living paycheck to paycheck they may not have the money to pay for the lunches at the beginning of the week. I don’t know when Utah sends out unemployment checks but in most states that’s once or twice a month. So it’s likely a fair number of parents didn’t have the money to pay for the lunches on the day they got the call.

  7. AnotherAnonymouse says

    Anecdata time: when I was a child in the late 1960s/early 1970s, school lunch cost two quarters. One dreadful day in 1972, I reached into my pocket and found one quarter and one hole in the pocket. I was devastated. My teacher saw I didn’t line up for the hot lunch and asked what I was going to eat. When I said I didn’t have enough money, she sent me to the school nurse, who made me a peanut-butter sandwich. She explained that children must eat in order to grow and learn, so the health room always had peanut butter and bread to make sandwiches for children who didn’t otherwise have a lunch.

    This was common knowledge in 1972; somehow Republicans forgot this 40 years later.

  8. Mano Singham says

    Surely adults must realize that tis type of experience can be really humiliating for children and should be avoided at all costs?

  9. says

    you would think that there is some basic instinct in everyone

    It is equally possible that everyone’s instincts are to be completely horrible, and only careful socialization makes them do the decent thing, occasionally.

  10. Chiroptera says

    Mano Singham, #11:

    I would have thought that the humiliation was part of the attraction. I’m surprised they didn’t take the little moochers out and have them all tested for drugs, too. Just because.

  11. Steve Morrison says

    You know, I’ve been reading Dickens lately, and he tells all sorts of horrifying stories of cruel things done to children – but I don’t recall any case like this in his books, of giving a child food and immediately snatching it away again!

  12. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @ ^ Chiroptera : Shh.. don’t give them ideas.

    OMFSM this is so wrong, cruel, wasteful and harmful and attacking the most vulnerable who aren’t to blame for the meals not being paid.

    Surely this counts as some form of child abuse – psychological / emotional more than physical (although there is that whole starving thing) and as such I wonder if the kids o r theri parents could sue?

    Of course, if they are too poor to afford their kids food then they probably don’t have enough for a good lawyer. maybe some good (in all senses of the word) lawyers can volunteer to represent them pro bono and really deter such evil treatment of children in the future?

    This reminds me of some of the scenes in John Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’ but that was fiction right? (Plus talking about a whole other era back in the 1930’s when society was much worse and we’ve improved astronomical units since then, right?)

  13. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @14. Steve Morrison :

    See my last paragaph & :


    (WARNING : link contains SPOILERS)

    We had to read that one in high school – very powerful, great novel and pretty sure there were scenes there of starving people – okie internal refugees,children, women and men – being forced to watch piles of good food being destroyed (burnt?) in front of them.

    Mind you, Wiki doesn’t seem to bear this out though. Anyone care to confirm or deny scenes something like that in that?

  14. Robert B. says

    I think it was a dramatic exaggeration? I know there was a time when the owners of farms were better off not growing anything because the price of food was so low – and yet, not so low that there weren’t still people starving while good cropland lay fallow.

  15. Wylann says

    What kind of people can do this?

    The kind that just follow orders. If the Millgram experiment taught us anything, it’s that most people don’t like disobeying orders.

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