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Johnston Parent Feels Shortchanged Over New School Lunch Policy

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Students at one school had their hot lunches thrown in the trash if they owed money. A new "no charge" policy is supposed to correct the problem, but one parent says it is creating more problems.

Sharon McCabe wants to know why her son's lunch ended up in the trash.

"I was told by the assistant principal that it was put on a cart and taken into some other room and thrown into the trash can," McCabe said.

The Cleveland Elementary cafeteria did not show enough money in his account. A new no-charge policy is in effect, so the full lunch plate he had already picked up was replaced with vegetables of the day.

"He got lima beans, a pickle and some kind of tomatoes," she said.

McCabe knew she was paid up. A computer glitch proved her right, but the end result for her son's original lunch still hits her the wrong way.

"It makes no sense to me at all," McCabe said.

The director of school nutrition said it's not supposed to happen that way. Teachers are supposed to direct students who don't have lunch money straight to the cashier. In McCabe's case, the computer glitch may have been the problem, but Johnson County school officials admit there have been glitches with implementing the new policy.

"We're dealing with some isolated incidents," said Johnston County schools representative Crystal Roberts.

School officials admit the lunch policy has led to some waste.

"By law, we cannot re-serve that food because it's been taken across the line," Roberts said.

School officials stand by the policy in order to avoid unpaid charges, but McCabe feels throwing food in the trash is not the way to enforce it.

"It's just too extreme," she said.

Johnston County officials said the "no charge" rule has resulted in more families signing up for the free and reduced lunch program. Wake County also uses a similiar policy.


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