COMMUNITY

6-year-old subjected to “cafeteria walk of shame” after being forced to return hot meal

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It was a heartbreaking day for a kindergartener who was instructed to return her hot tray of food during school lunch. The cafeteria worker took away 6-year-old Anya Howard’s meal after noticing that she didn’t have enough balance in her lunch account.

She was then asked to go wait at the end of the line for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Anya said she felt extremely humiliated as she passed a long queue of nearly 20 of her classmates who made her feel “sad.” “They told me I needed to give my food back,” shared the girl who was subjected to this humiliation just for a $2.25 meal.

The incident, which happened in May 2019, left the girl’s family furious with her grandfather, Dwight Howard, strongly criticizing the Southwest Elementary School’s cafeteria policies. “When she was talking to me about it, she was more than ‘sad,'” he said, adding, “I mean, that’s embarrassing for a little 6-year-old.”

Howard, who regarded the situation as a “cafeteria walk of shame” went on to reveal that his granddaughter wasn’t the only one who was forced to undergo this unacceptable treatment. According to WISH, there were other students who joined Anya that day as they too had a negative lunch balance. “They were laughing at us,” she recalled.

Dwight explained that the embarrassing situation could have been avoided if only the school’s cafeteria had alerted his family earlier and not waited until the last minute to convey the information. When the aide denied Anya’s hot lunch, her credit had dipped to $0.10, and only then did the school send a note to her family informing them.

“They waited until there was a dime left, denied her the opportunity to eat the lunch that she had [been served and tried to pay for], and then she had to go to the end of the line to wait for a PB&J,” revealed Dwight. However, the Community Schools superintendent Dr. Kent DeKoninck revealed that payment reminders are issued right when the lunch accounts have $5 left in them.

“It is not an uncommon occurrence for multiple students to be served the alternate lunch on any given day,” noted DeKoninck. “Any time this happens, our staff looks to handle all of these as discreetly as possible… We do allow elementary students to charge two hot meals before receiving the alternate meal.”

But the note stapled to the payment reminder read, “We are no longer allowing any Café accounts to go into the negative. If there is not enough money in your child’s account to cover the entire meal, they will be receiving a peanut butter sandwich and a milk.”

Cover image source: YouTube Screenshot | WISH-TV