Denying Kids Lunch? Not Cool, Whitsons Says

Children denied lunch because they had no money in their prepaid accounts.

The controversy over unpaid lunch accounts hit a low last month when several foodservice employees in the Attleboro (Mass.) School District were disciplined for denying children lunch because they had no money in their prepaid accounts. The workers were employees of Whitsons Culinary Group at Coelho Middle School.

According to The Boston Globe, about 25 students were turned away by cashiers when their accounts couldn’t cover the $2.40 meal. When Whitsons executives learned of the incident, an unidentified number of employees were disciplined. Some reportedly were fired.

“Please be assured that the individuals responsible for this were acting on their own and not under the direction of Whitsons School Nutrition,” read a statement released by the company. “Whitsons apologizes for this incident and wishes to assure the community of Attleboro that we are investigating and handling the incident in accordance with our human resource policies. In the meantime, you can be assured that no child will be denied a meal, regardless of outstanding balances.”

According to the company, the school district is responsible for administering the prepaid accounts and going after parents whose children’s funds are running low. Whitsons’ standard practice in Attleboro is to allow students to have a meal even if their accounts are bare. Once a child receives five “free” meals in a row, Whitsons notifies the district, which in turn contacts the parents. In the meantime, students are supposed to receive an alternate meal, which usually is a cheese sandwich along with fruit, vegetable and milk.

To Whitsons’ credit, not only did it act quickly to correct the situation, it also worked some PR magic by offering all students free meals for several days the following week after the incident. It also planned to host a goodwill cookout to which students and their parents would be invited. 

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
woman surprise

When I joined the staff at FoodService Director in the spring of 2015, I couldn’t believe how much there was to learn about the intricacies of the industry. My past experience, from kindergarten to my college days to on-the-job meals, would lead me to believe that noncommercial dining was a kind of automated process—an amenity that’s expected, and one you only become aware of if something goes wrong.

But as with my own household chores, there are no magical elves making sure the business of feeding students, seniors and hospital patients is done, and done well. Foodservice...

Ideas and Innovation
elderly old hands

A family’s request for at-home meal support for a patient at Lee Memorial in Fort Myers, Fla., led System Director of Food & Nutrition Services Larry Altier to uncover a gap in care. He saw that only 1% of patients had been coded (diagnosed and labeled for billing purposes) as malnourished, while more than 60% of all Lee Memorial patients are over 65 years or older, a population that experiences the issue at a higher rate.

His discovery helped more rigorously identify malnutrition, but it also strengthened Lee Memorial’s community connection. The hospital launched a delivery...

Ideas and Innovation

When it comes to sustainability, sometimes the smallest kitchen changes can make the biggest difference. When Chris Henning, senior assistant director of dining services for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, switched from standard latex gloves to nitrile gloves, he also set up a recycling program. Once recycled, the gloves are turned into playground equipment, bike racks and park benches.

Henning says the nitrile gloves have been a good fit for his department, both in terms of durability and cost. “Participating in the campus buying program reduces the cost, as [our]...

Managing Your Business
studient orientation

When an alma mater and an employer are one in the same, it can be a win-win for both the employee and the school. Here’s how two students’ experiences with campus dining—one positive and the other negative—led them on a path to their current jobs.

A Feast to Remember

NC State University’s main campus in Raleigh, N.C. was built on farmland given to the state by Richard Stanhope Pullen; every spring, students gather to celebrate those agricultural roots through Farm Feast, an outdoor celebration with food and music. Design major Christin King remembers her first Farm Feast vividly: “...

FSD Resources