SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah school district apologized Wednesday after school lunches for up to 40 elementary students were thrown out a day earlier because of outstanding balances on their accounts, CBS Salt Lake City affiliate KUTV-TV reports.
District spokesman Jason Olsen told the Salt Lake Tribune that cafeteria workers at Uintah Elementary School weren't able to see who was in debt until after the lunches had already been handed out Tuesday.
"This situation could have and should have been handled in a different manner," the district said in a statement posted to its Facebook page. "We apologize."
Olsen said the workers threw out the lunches because they can't be served to another student. The students whose lunches were taken away were given fruit and milk.
Parent Erica Lukes, whose 11-year-old daughter had to give her lunch back, told the newspaper the children shouldn't be "punished or humiliated" for their parents' mistakes. She said she didn't know about a problem with her daughter's account.
The district said in its statement that school officials started calling parents about negative balances Monday. The calls continued Tuesday, the day school workers took lunches back from students.
"Unfortunately, children are served lunch before they get to the computer for payment," the district said. "The children who didn't have enough money in their accounts had their normal food trays taken from them and were given the fruit and milk."
The district said that, according to the school, students are told when they go through the lunch line if they have a low balance and notes are sent home. Still, parents were "surprised by the news" Monday and Tuesday, the district said.
The district was investigating how and whether parents were notified of low balances before this week.