School Adopts Policy Saying That Kids With No Lunch Money Can't Eat – 'Unless They Come Back With Money, Their Tray Will Be Thrown Away’

Healthy meals is a basic human right.

boy eating peanut butter sandwich for lunch LightField Studios - Shutterstock

Food insecurity is a huge problem across the country. In 2021, 13.5 million families were not sure where their next meal would come from and the ability for the children in those families to eat free lunch at school was likely a welcome reprieve from hunger.

That’s why people were so alarmed when a North Carolina school sent out a memo stopping students who didn’t have money from eating.

In a post shared in the r/facepalm subreddit, a user shared the notification sent out to students at Davidson County Schools in North Carolina by the Director of Nutrition. The director opened the email apologizing for the news he was about to share.


The memo said that students would no longer be able to charge meals to their accounts if there was no money in them.           

It went on to say that if a student made it to the cashier and was found to have a deficient balance, their plate would be confiscated and if they failed to return with the proper payment, it would be thrown away.

Photo: Reddit


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That news seems to be a ‘make it make sense’ moment. It seems counterintuitive that the county is trying to avoid giving out lunch for free and losing money by opting to waste precious meals that students could eat and still lose money.

“We will briefly discuss this in a manager’s meeting,” the Director of Nutrition added. But he made it very clear that there would be no change to the new policy and students who didn’t have the funds to cover their meals would go hungry.

Commenters thought that whoever had come up with the policy was no financial mastermind. One person said, “So we're going to throw away food...and still take the financial hit.... but deprive the kid of food too.” Others piled on wondering why in the world the schools would rather throw away perfectly good food than feed kids who needed a meal to get through the day.


Another person offered their own suggestions on why such a ‘ridiculous’ policy had been put into place. They commented, “It's not about the finances. It's about driving a point. They want to show how much they detest ‘the poors’.” With no other logical explanation offered it does look to be a matter of principle rather than fiscal responsibility.

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One catalyst for the change might be the end of federal subsidies to cover students’ lunches.

Starting in 2022 and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a food safety net was put into place by the federal government to ensure all kids could eat regardless of their ability to pay or their family’s income. With that coming to an end, low-income households still qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, but all other students have to pay or go without food. This has resulted in far fewer lunches being served and students whose parents are over the income threshold being left out in the cold without consideration for rising inflation and food costs.

During the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture also started giving school districts federal waivers so they could fully fund healthy breakfasts and lunches to students free of charge. The impact was bigger than anyone might have imagined and those students who might usually have been singled out as ‘poor’ no longer had to worry about that stigma since everyone ate for free.

Like everything else schools provide free of charge to students such as books, laptops, bussing, and instruments, universal access to meals should be a no-brainer. Under no circumstances should a student spend all day at school without eating and be expected to put their best foot forward. Contrary to what some believe, food should be a basic human right.


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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington. She covers lifestyle, relationships, and human-interest stories that readers can relate to and that bring social issues to the forefront for discussion.