Student, short 15 cents, gets lunch dumped in trash by truly outstanding cafeteria worker

Illustration for article titled Student, short 15 cents, gets lunch dumped in trash by truly outstanding cafeteria worker
Photo: miflippo (iStock Photo)

Good morning! Get ready to grind your teeth.

CBS affiliate WKMG in Orlando, Florida, reports that a student at University High School was prevented from eating lunch on her first day back at school by a really excellent cafeteria employee. The student reached the front of the line, provided her account number, and was told that her account was in the red—by 15 cents. The student, a sophomore, didn’t have 15 cents. So this banner employee, this real gem, this absolute beacon of light, this model cafeteria worker, reportedly dumped the whole damn meal in the trash.


As Kimberly Aiken, the student’s mother, put it to WKMG: “That’s the big thing—it’s eat breakfast, lunch, so that they can make sure that they’re doing good on their work,” she said. “But then you starve my child?”

Aiken also told the station that she’s signed up for the free/reduced-cost lunch program, but it has yet to take effect; the deficit—which, again, was for one dime and one nickel, or 15 pennies, or less than a quarter—must have carried over from the previous year.

WKMG contacted the school district for comment; presumably their question was something along the lines of “Uh, so, is it your policy to throw perfectly good food in the garbage, thus shaming a student who doesn’t have 15 cents on her while simultaneously depriving that student of food?” A spokesperson responded, saying that the school “is always willing to work with students and families as needed.” He also said that the district would be working with the family to resolve the issue.

Aiken’s daughter said she brought a quarter to school the next day, to pay off her massive, shameful debt, and a cafeteria worker said “everything was taken care of,” per WKMG.

A few general don’ts, in this humble writer’s opinion. Don’t:

  • Shame a kid for not having money
  • Throw perfectly good food in the garbage
  • Be an asshole

But those are just my opinions, of course.


Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!


E=MC Hammered

Fuck this cafeteria worker so hard. My family was very poor growing up and we ate via the free lunch program. There were days that dinner consisted of a can of Campbell’s tomato soup and toast—or similar—so sometimes the free lunch and breakfast was about the only protein I got in a day. Refusing the kid a meal over $0.15 is borderline criminal.

Nothing like this ever happened to me, or as far as I know to anyone at my school, but I recall being embarrassed sometimes at lunch because the kids who ate free lunch had to stay in the cafeteria while everyone else could take their lunch outside to eat if they wanted. The kids who bought cafeteria lunch could still go outside, so it wasn’t an issue of taking the trays and silverware out. Just a way to make sure we poors knew our place I guess...