I’ve wanted to write about what happened at Uintah Elementary school for a while now, but it’s made me so angry. I honestly didn’t know what else to say except that what happened was absolutely atrocious, unfair and I felt absolutely sick over it. Just sick.
And I could just write that and let that be that.
But what good is my opinion? Does stating the obvious do any good? It isn’t enough for me that I could say, “This isn’t fair. What they did is awful and they should be reprimanded.” It just isn’t.
For those that have absolutely no idea what happened at Uintah Elementary, let me paraphrase. Some sixty or so kids had negative balances on their lunch accounts. These days, all transactions take place with an electronic system, not like when I was in school and we paid cash. No cash, no lunch. (Or punch cards, remember those!)
Now, they are a little more forgiving and when they reach a certain amount of negative balance, kids are not allowed to buy regular lunches, rather they are to have a designated lunch of either PB&J or fruit or something.
But in Uintah, they were having computer issues or something, and when the kids came through the line, and their cards were swiped, it showed they had outstanding balances, and their lunches were taken from them – and thrown in the trash.
The kids were then given fruit as their meal and basically shamed in front of their entire school. Some of the kids shared lunches with those who had theirs taken away, but really? Really?
Ugh. Just let that vision sit in your head for a little bit.
Food. Taken. From children.
I mean, really. Who does that?
Aside from the obvious waste, why would you ever take food from a kid? Why should a child be punished because of their parent’s transgressions? How do they know that those kids may only have that lunch to eat all day? That they may not get a dinner?
So yes. I can sit here and say, “Boo! That’s awful! I feel sick!”
Instead, I decided to do something.
This isn’t a post to say, “Look at me! Yay!” It’s a post to say, “Did you know you can do this? Because you can.”
Did you know that you can call your local school district and offer money to pay off some negative balances? You can. Because I did.
Last week I emailed the food director of our school district and told him my request. Today I still hadn’t heard back, so I called. When I spoke to a woman who said she was in charge of food balances, and I told her what I wanted to do, she put me on hold for a long time. When she came back on the line, she said she’d have the director call me back.
When he did, he – for lack of better words – was flummoxed. Apparently this has never happened and he wasn’t quite sure how to go around it. He asked me many times if I was sure this is what I wanted to do, and I told him that, yes, I definitely did. He asked me to write out my request and sign it – for auditing purposes – and drop a check off. He hated asking me to do that, he said he wished he could just accept a check and be done with it, but I understood completely. I told him I’d drop it off tomorrow at Claire’s school, and he said he’d give the principal and guidance councilor a heads up. He then sincerely thanked me, and that was that.
Listen, I’m not made of money. I don’t have some giant disposable income. We’re living off of one solid income, but we do just fine and then some. Matt works extremely hard so I can work extremely hard at home. So the money I make at the gym? It goes to savings. It’s a sad amount I make there, really, and it isn’t missed. So why can’t I take a month’s income from the gym and pay off a few kids’ lunches? Why not? In the grand scheme, what’s a few hundred dollars?
To some, it’s everything.
Matt was skeptical of my request to do this. When I told him that the food director was completely unsure of how to handle it, and was thanking me every other sentence, Matt said, “Well, why do you think he would be that way?” I said, “I don’t know, because no one’s ever asked him to do this before?” He said, “Exactly. Why would anyone do that?”
Matt didn’t mean it to be all, why would someone do good. It was more, why would someone do that when they could donate to a cause or put it away for their kids’ college funds.
I get that. I do.
I shrugged my shoulders and told him, “Well, I could be out buying 200 dollar hand bags. Instead, I’m buying 200 dollars worth of lunches for kids.”
That’s not a dig to those who like expensive handbags, it’s just me. It’s who I am. I remember a friend of mine in elementary school who when he would come home from school, came home to an empty house, like me because my mom worked, but he had very little food in his kitchen. I remember him eating tuna out of the can almost like a rabid dog. I remember him sitting next to me at lunch eating whatever he was allowed to have on a reduced/free meal plan.
I remember days when he only got an apple.
I remember seeing him look defeated. I even remember once when he asked me why his parents couldn’t afford for him to eat. He said he was so tired of feeling hungry all the time.
We all have reasons why we do what we do. When I read that article, the nine year old in me woke up, and she was pissed. So if some day when one of my kids are off at college and I’m short 200 dollars to buy them a book, I won’t feel bad. Because I know that my money was well spent.