Lunch Program Causes a Stir

LENOX TOWNSHIP — Lunch is causing a debate in the Mountain View School District in Susquehanna County.

At a recent school board meeting, a parent claimed their child’s hot lunch was thrown away because the student didn’t have enough money to pay for it.

Some parents at the school near Kingsley said they are outraged.

“I would be appalled if it was my child, and I think the school owes them an apology,” said Kendra Hamilton from Nicholson.

“I just think that no child should go hungry. They were given a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but they should put aside another fund or something,” said Mary Donovan from Lenox Township.

Karen Voigt, the substitute superintendent at Mountain View School District said that’s only half of the story. It’s procedure with the lunch program that when a students account is in the red they will still get lunch, just not a hot lunch. They are offered a peanut butter and jelly or a cheese sandwich. The superintendent said that child’s tray was never thrown away.

“That is not the case at all. All of our elementary school students eat lunch,” said Voigt.

Voigt said more than 40% of the students in the district are already on a free or reduced lunch program.

She said the school wants to help families, but the district has to work within the budget.

Voigt said, “Our cafeteria program already faces a $30,000 deficit this year. We’re not out to make money, but we do have to be responsible to the tax-payers in the district. “

Parents are afraid this lunch situation could encourage bullying.

“The school is totally wrong in this instance, and I feel it’s atrocious,” said Hamilton.

The school board said the cafeteria manager sends parents numerous notices by phone or mail to let them know when their child’s lunch account is running low, and they also have a fund community members can donate funds to, for these type of emergency situations.

51 comments

    • CG

      The parent allowed their child’s account to get so far in arrears they knew hot lunch would be denied. If the cheese sandwich or pb&j wasn’t something their child would like, their options were to either put money in the account or pack a lunch their child would like! They didn’t choose either and didn’t like the result! This policy is well known and handed out at the beginning of each school year.

      • smastro1

        at our school system we have a grant from our state for ten years that give all of the children in elementary and middle schools free breakfast and lunches.before that we also had to do those rules for those that followed them.

  • sky

    There are always two side to the story.
    The staff that works there are doing there jobs and being crusified for it. This is a policy they have to abide by. (Point of sale policy)
    The children and or parents are notified when a child is getting low and when there’s no money and when they now are in the negative. If your negative 25.00 you are offered a pbj sandwich or cheese sandwich which also consist with a fruit, vegetable and a milk. Do you think they like taking the trays away. NO! But, it’s the policy which it’s been since 2008. As for the comments of water being taken away. Anything alacarte items (according to policy) is not allowed to be charged. Example chips, water, Icecream. They are never denied a lunch.

    • Pudish

      My children go to mountain view and they might send or call saying your account is low. But its never on time. I sent $50 in one time and they never contacted me until the account was $30 negative. And for people to say it is poor parenting. You guys are seriously wrong. Sure punish the kids for their parents not funding there lunch account. Its not hurting the parents at all. Just makes it so the kids get stuck with a crappy lunch. It isn’t the kids fault now is it. How about they do away with some of the programs they have in their schools that are pointless. That just use money for nothing. And don’t forget most parents pay school taxes why don’t they set aside some of the tax money for the kids who can’t get a hot lunch. They also charge the same price for a hot lunch as they do a cold lunch. Seems to me that the cold lunch should be a little cheaper then a hot one. If its the same price why can’t a child with no lunch money not get a hot lunch. But who am I. A parent that funds my childs lunch account. And all anyone else ever worries about is a budget. Its like listening to a political debate. Every other word is budget budget budget. Screw the budget and set some aside for the kids.

      • smastro1

        The meal account is an adult thing. My opinion is to send a letter of the arrears to the parents and if ignored send it to a collection agency as any business would .

  • Cindy Marseco Beck

    How can you throw away food like that it would have been better in a childs stomach then in the garbage so you wasted a hot lunch to go get a cold lunch what is the difference people have to wake up and take care of these children no matter what the circumstances you are only hurting and embarrassing the children …

  • JT

    Pretty sure I grew up on cold lunches that were packed for me. I still take peanut butter to work with me everyday. Didn’t realize children where malnutritioned if they didn’t get a hot lunch.

  • Mark Hannagan

    I always thought that WNEP news can be believed because they do the research. In this case this was nothing but a way to sensationalize and stir people up without reporting the facts. So sad that your standards have slipped so far. No child goes without food and no food is discarded.

  • Sharon Blakney

    i don’t know what ever happened to paying for your lunch at time of purchase? When i went to school we had a collector(elementary) or a cash register(high school) to pay at when lunch time came around. the only kids who didn’t pay at lunch were those who qualified for “tickets” which were mailed to students or picked up at the school office monthly. they had to fill out exemption forms proving the family income. i’m at a loss as to why this “account” system is the better way when so often things like this happen. go back to the way it was…if you can’t afford lunch you bring your own or apply for subsidised lunch program . don’t have an unseen account where a kid can’t readily tell if they can get lunch that day.then they can’t make back up plans and all involved look like scoundrels cause the kid can’t eat. problem solved. go back to the old way it causes less headaches and empty stomachs and embarrassment.

  • Nicole

    This is so sad! Can you imagine if this is the only meal this child gets in a day? My husband was a cop and came home the one day telling me about a little boy who told him he goes to school even if he is sick because it’s the only meal he gets :(
    Can you imagine that being your child? I wouldn’t care about the rpercussions I would give the kids the food I’m sure some gets thrown or at the end of the day anyway!

  • jason

    my school does this crap too, im in the red like 20$, i still get a hot lunch everyday and they throw it away and i got asked why i said someone will slip up and let me slide and they dont charge my account, and i say ill put my hunger off to the side and eat when i get home

  • Kelly ODwyer

    Wow. I have packed my child a peanut butter sandwich every day since middle school because that’s what she likes. She thinks the school food is disgusting. Up until her junior year she would get pizza on Friday but quit that, too. Why do you need to be like everyone else? Would you jump off a bridge if everyone else did? My sister was getting notices that her account was low, and it turned out my niece was buying double desserts and buying food for other people, You need to investigate!

  • Shannon OConners

    After Living In PA Now In Texas.. I’m Not At All Suprised By This.. I Would Geys Notes For My Boys Over .10 Cents. Although I Tried To Keep Up With Their Accounts. Now Living In Texas The School Is Very Good Here And Being In An Area Of Poverty They Pay For Breakfast Daily For All Students And Are In Process Of Doing Lunch Too.. I Believe We Tax Payers Pay Enough So I’m Thankful They Are able.

  • nichole

    Being a lunch lady (in a different school district, but same company) we hate having to take away kids lunches. In PA, NO KID UNDER 6TH GRADE IS DENIED A LUNCH NO MATTER HOW MUCH THEY OWE. Past 6th grade that depends on the school’s policy. We get no pleasure in telling them that they can’t get their lunches.

    I have two kids of my own. I work so they have money in their accounts for lunch. They know to tell me when they are getting low. I know to check on line or at work to see how much they have in their accounts.

    May I make a suggestions to all those saying it is the school’s fault. Make sure your kids have money in their accounts. If you don’t want them buying certain things, call the school and ask to talk to the nutritionist or head cook. They can make it so things pop up on the register when the kids enter their number to let the cafeteria workers know that they can only have certain things (ice cream on fridays, no chips, etc., etc.). We are not psychic, we make sure our kids know what they can and can’t get with their lunches. If we have a kid who has a message pop up like that, we enforce it.

    Oh and one more thing. If you know that your kid owes enough money to be denied a hot lunch or even a lunch (6th grade and up), than my suggestion to you is get up early enough and pack them a lunch. You make sure you eat during the day, so make sure your kid can eat also. Its called being a parent.

  • sue

    it is simply a case of parental neglect,parents trying unsuccessfully to blame someone else for the totally embarrassing situation they themselves put their child in . Now, to top it off ,everyone in the viewing area is aware that it is really the parents fault, poor child must feel humiliated . Parents would have done the child a better service by packing them a lunch, Sorry kid.

  • Accountant78

    Simple solution: pay for your child’s lunch. If you can’t they get a sandwich. It will ‘ve a life lesson. You can’t get what everyone else gets if you don’t pay. No such thing as a free lunch, remember?

  • Stephanie

    That is awful. I would be outraged if that happened to my son. At my son’s school if you are in the red they still give the kids hot lunches. They just can’t go for seconds or snack. I hear about schools that won’t give kids a lunch because they can’t afford it or are in the red and it makes me so mad. Why should the child suffer if the parents don’t pay. It’s not fair.

  • KU

    I am a pca at a high school at a different school district. I am also a parent who has a young daughter going to the same district. Once a child’s account hits negative $5.00, they can no longer receive a hot lunch. They will receive a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A child will never go hungry, but parents must take responsibility and send in the money due on the acct. If the school district just lets the kids accounts keep hitting a negative balance without putting a cap on it, who knows how high the negative balances would be. Its also the childs (middle school, high school) responsibility to let their parents know when they need money. Maybe if they have to get pb&j for several days, it will jar their memory to let their parents know they need money. As for the younger kids, my daughter brings home an envelope stating she needs money when it gets below $5 and I will get an envelope sent home each day until I put money in her account. I also have an online account so I can put money in that way, or just monitor her account to keep track of it. It is my opinion that the school is doing the right thing, as long as the child is fed. If that is not the case, and the school would refuse to feed the child something, then that is definitely a big problem that needs to be addressed. But parents need to be more proactive and check their kids accounts, or follow up with their kids to see where their lunch account stands. Sorry if I offend anyone, but this to me is just like a monthly bill that you need to keep track of and pay.

  • g

    jk- Your comment is so far off base to be able to call anyone Jerks. Most residents of the MVSD aren’t recieving Gas Royalties. So maybe when you want to call someone a J-E-R-K you should look in a M-I-R-R-O-R!

  • Alex L

    How about Cabot Oil quits running ads on WNEP and covers that $30,000 deficit so kids can get a hot lunch? Aren’t people in the shalefields supposed to be rolling in money? 40% of kids are on free or reduced lunch? I guess it’s the kids’ fault that they aren’t working like their great grandparents did sorting coal pieces and driving mule carts out of the mines. Shale is the new anthracite and NE PA folks need to organize like our ancestors did.

    • RLD

      It is not Cabot’s responsibility to make sure children get a decent meal, it is the parents. Cabot does a lot for Susq. County, and should not be expected to do it all. Coal companies did not do anything extra for the communities, so there is no comparison.

  • mark arnold

    The hot meal does get thrown out due to it already being served to the student, but the student will get a peanut butter and jelly or cheese sandwich. The lunch server does not know if the student has money or not. Maybe they need to switch where they pay so hot meals are not wasted.

  • Lt

    How can you complain about the school not having limits for overdrawn accounts? Once that begins to happen, 90% of parents will quit paying for lunch! You think there are budget problems now, wait til that happens! It’s about responsible parenting. Fill out the forms if you can’t pay for your child’s lunch! Or, phone school and set up a payment plan. Yep, cafeteria workers sometimes make mistakes with notices . And how on earth could you expect a teacher to watch your child’s lunch purchases! You say don’t get ice cream, they do it anyway. That’s disobeying on your child’s part! Good grief, that’s not the teacher’s fault! Again, call your school… My daughters account is set up to ONLY allow her an “extra” on 2 set days a week. This is probably an option in this district too. A cold lunch is still more food, and healthier, than some packed lunches. Take care of your kids and stop being so entitled.

  • Just me

    The children shouldn’t have to suffer regardless of the parents financial state. However, far too often you will find the child’s account is left negative while the parents maintain their smoking & drinking habits. Situations always vary but never should a child be malnourished, mistreated or targeted. Sadly it has to do with your Senators and how they set the annual budget…Unfortunately education system always falls to the end of the line. Personally as a middle-class mother of 2; I certainly don’t mind my tax dollars going to any child. I would rather it. There should be no reason a child’s account goes so negative. Surely most people these days can spare $10 a week.

  • J

    When are parents/guardians going to step up and take responsibility? If you cannot afford to pay for the lunch everyday, fill out the application for free/reduced lunch! If you are responsible for paying for the lunch for YOUR child, then keep up to date on the account and stay aware if you do receive a notice that funds are low or in the negative. Or, another option, pack your child’s lunch! There is only so much that can be done within a school and people are never satisfied. Why does all of the blame get placed onto the school district and the food services department? The child still received something to eat. You don’t want your child to be embarrassed or get bullied for having a different lunch to eat? Simple solution: pay the bill, keep the account in the positive! Parents, take responsibility for your children and your own actions.

  • Kim Considine

    are you telling me that grown adult parents dont understand that they didnt pay for their kids lunches ahead of time and expect the district to pay for it regardless for shame do you know how you make your kids feel embarrassed when its your fault

  • Phil J

    What really gets me is that the person who keeps track of the accounts of the kid’s lunch accounts isn’t always right or doing their job correctly. I know for a FACT, that there have been numerous people who have been receiving notices, saying that their accounts are over drawn for some reason, even thou they have sent in reg payments. There are other people who don’t send in money (because for some reason they don’t have money) DON’T receive notice that their accounts are over drawn and their kids are able to buy hot lunches and then they receive notice that they are really over drawn.

    Also how the teachers allow the kids to get ice cream at lunch time and NOT informing the parents about it. (people can’t start blaming the kids about the ice cream, there kids. Its the teacher, who have to keep an eye out on the kids while they are at school and start informing the parents about that). Isn’t that we are paying them with our tax dollars. The school can’t tell me that doesn’t happen because it happens to me all the time. My kid always get ice cream after her lunch which uses her account up. We told her NOT to and contacted her teacher about it, but she is still allowed to get ice cream at lunch time. To me it seems that the teachers DON’T care anymore.

    To me it seems that it is both sides (parents and school) fault. Maybe the school board and parents should start getting their heads out of the butts and start working together instead of against each other. Maybe the school should start allowing kids to have a hot lunch even when they don’t have enough money in their account and starting send bills and notices to the parents.

    • Joe

      It isn’t the teacher’s fault that your kids don’t listen to you. My parents told me when I was in school that I was not to buy ice cream or snacks. I wouldn’t dare to disobey. Teachers are paid to teach, not baby your spoiled kids.

    • Ted Priestash

      I don’t think our tax dollars should go to a teacher to tell your kid not to eat ice cream. Sorry but they are paid to educate. If your child wont listen to you about not eating ice cream then that’s your problem as a parent. If your kid wont listen then pack a lunch for them and don’t give them money. The idea that it’s the teachers fault because your child is disobedient is ludicrous.

    • CG

      In many schools a child’s teacher doesn’t have lunch duty and most likely isn’t in the cafeteria when your child is. They don’t have any more control over your child buying ice cream at that time than you do from home. Even if he/she was it’s a daunting task to keep track of each parent’s specific requests for every child!

  • CG

    Slow news day today at WNEP? That Board meeting was held on Monday night. Why is it now a big story on Friday? Parents need to keep the accounts up, the school needs to handle the situation better and by Friday it’s definitely old news!!!

  • DER

    I have children that attend MVSD! We all get the policies at the beginning of the year. So, parents we aren’t talking about being $1, 5, or 15 dollars over drawn. Those parents should be ashamed that they let there kids account so far gone! With that said, to make a child with a hot lunch get out of line, to go get back in line so they then can wait again for a cold lunch is ridiculous!! So Both sides need to get it together!!

  • Josh

    My kids go to MT. View. We get notices if the lunch account are low, overdrawn! I just don’t understand the neglect of parents! Now with that said, to make a child get out of line when they already are standing there with the hot lunch and then are told they can’t have it! They have to go back in line to get the cold lunch. Hmmm both sides are so WRONG!

  • Sw

    As a parent, I was given the policy and procedure of the school lunch program at the beginning of the school year along with an application for free and reduce benefits. If you can’t afford lunch then fill out the darn application! Also, I believe the school was giving students a $25 limit even though the policy is $15 as a cortesy. On top of that they are still offered a lunch. When does the responisbility fall onto the parent. This is consider neglect on so many levels when the parent won’t supply them a lunch. Money needs to go towards education like buying new text books or making sure the school has enough teachers. It’s not like I was never notified if my child was low on money. I get an email or a letter in the mail. I think the school is very proactive. So parents step up your game and quit neglecting your children’s needs. If you are having issues don’t be lazy, ask for an application. I am sure all the offices have them.

  • M

    I know first hand this is not true. No child is ever refused a meal. Yes, they will not be given a hot lunch, but they are given a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, fruit, veg, and a drink. Which is more than some parents even pack for their children! Get both sides of the story before jumping to conclusions!

  • JD

    What’s more “atrocious” is the fact that these parents neglect to take responsibility for their own children! Don’t blame the district or the program for poor parenting.

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