New York student has hot lunch taken away, tossed over balance

Posted at 5:41 AM, Dec 01, 2016

When your kids get home from school, you'd expect them to have stories about their day.  Imagine one mother's fury when she found out her daughter's hot lunch was taken away and thrown out.

It would have been tacos for lunch at Mill Middle School in Williamsville, New York, where Emma Keller is in fifth grade.

As she was walking out of line, tacos on her tray, she says they were taken away. They were thrown in the trash.

"I was kind of confused of why it was happening and I didn't know what was going on," Emma said.

Emma was given a peanut butter jelly sandwich instead.

Her mother, Molly Lafferty was furious when she found out.

"I felt so out of the loop as a parent," Lafferty said. "I just wanted to fix it and I couldn't. The damage had already been done."

Lafferty's daughter is part of the reduced-cost meal program. She said meals like breakfast and lunch had been free, until the middle of October, when Emma had her tacos taken away.

She says a note was mailed home, regarding the switch, but wasn't received until it was too late.

Turns out, there was an outstanding balance on Emma's account.  She says it was over about a dollar.

"I had my lunch taken away from me because I didn't pay 75 cents," Emma said.

"They'll take it and throw it out in front of her and in front of her classmates? It's humiliating. You can't do things like that to kids," Lafferty said.

Why were these tacos thrown out?

"Similar to restaurants, health regulations do not allow food to be reused after it has been served," a spokesperson wrote in a statement Buffalo-based WKBW. They would not comment on why Emma was not able to have a hot lunch. "The district is prohibited by law to disclose information pertaining to specific students."

Now, Lafferty makes sure her daughter's account is up to date and paid in full.

"If your children are on free or reduced meals and you fill out that application at the beginning of the year and you haven't heard back, check with the school," Lafferty warned.

She wants other parents to be aware of what could happen, so the same thing doesn't happen to their child.

As for other children in the district, a spokesperson said, "An elementary or middle school student who requests a lunch and does not have the money can charge a maximum of three meals. If the student does not bring in the money, on the fourth charge, their choices for lunch will be PB&J or cheese sandwich with milk."