PITTSBURGH — A school cafeteria worker in Pittsburgh quit her job over what she calls a new “lunch shaming” policy.
Stacy Koltiska, who worked at an elementary school in the Canon McMillan School District for two years, told KDKA some students are being denied hot lunches to force parents to pay for overdrawn lunch accounts.
She says the policy, which was revised in June for grades kindergarten through 6th grade, replaces the hot meal with a cheese sandwich if $25 or more is owed.
“After overdrawing the cafeteria account by twenty-five dollars ($25.00), students in grade K-6 will be able to charge an alternate lunch which will consist of a sandwich, a fruit/vegetable serving and milk. Students in grades 7-12 will not be allowed to charge any additional lunches.”
Koltiska said she resigned after she was told to take away hot meals from two children.
“He was like, ‘Oh chicken,’ and his eyes welled up with tears and it was so heartbreaking and I’ll never forget it,” Koltiska told WPXI.
Koltiska shared her experience on Facebook:
“The first week of school on Friday, I had to take a little first grade boys chicken and give him this ‘cheese sandwich’. I will never forget the look on his face and then his eyes welled up with tears.”
The school district said in a statement shared on Facebook that the policy was implemented to “to address accountability for deficit lunch accounts accrued by families with the ability to pay for their child’s school meals. There is no impact on students who are eligible for the national school breakfast and lunch programs.”
Superintendent Matthew Daniels told KDKA that this is about collecting money owed and parents are notified of lunch balances every week.
“There has never been the intent with the adoption of this policy to shame or embarrass a child,” Daniels said.
Koltiska’s original Facebook post is below:
“ATTENTION ALL PARENTS WHO HAVE CHILDREN IN THE CANON McMILLAN SCHOOL DISTRICT!!! I need to inform you about a new policy involving school lunches that You may Not be aware of. As most of you know, I worked at Wylandville Elementary School’s Cafeteria. Although it was hot and hard work, I love the joy and excitement the younger children got from something as simple as a school lunch. This year Canon Mac implemented a new Rule 808.1. This rule states that any child who has a balance of $25 or more will not receive a lunch if they are in Grades 7 through 12. State law requires that children K through 6 must be given a lunch. In Rule 808.1 it says that children in K through 6 will be provided a “Sandwich” what You don’t know is that they are being given One Piece of Cheese on Bread. This isn’t even being toasted. Yet they are still being charged the FULL PRICE of a HOT LUNCH that is being DEINIED to them. The first week of school on Friday, I had to take a little first grade boys chicken and give him this “cheese sandwich”. I will never forget the look on his face and then his eyes welled up with tears. I was going to resign on Monday but my mother passed away on Sunday so I forgot about it until yesterday when it happened again. I had the same sick feeling so today I resigned. What makes this even MORE SICKENING is that we throw so much food away EVERYDAY. So Our Children are being served cheese, being charged and denied the hot food that we then throw away. Once again, it comes down to Profits Over People but this time the People are Our Children. If you are as outraged at this disgusting policy, please take a minute and e-mail Michael W. Daniels, Superintendent of Schools, Joni Mansmann, Director of Business and Finance. Jen Collins took my feelings and emotions and wrote an eloquent resignation letter that was sent to these people and others. She has a gift with the written word and said it much nicer than I could have. She also told me about a bus driver in another school district that heard kids were being denied lunch so he personally paid all the overdue accounts and then was Fired for posting on Facebook. I already resigned so please forward and spread the Word. I am only One Voice but if We all Come Together and Voice Our Outrage just maybe they will change this Policy. Probably not but its worth a shot. Thanks for Listening!!!”