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Letter: Hard realities in the school cafeteria

A healthy chicken salad school lunch, prepared under

A healthy chicken salad school lunch, prepared under federal guidelines, sitting on display at the cafeteria at Draper Middle School in Rotterdam, N.Y., on Sept. 11, 2012. President Barack Obama plans to ask Congress for $12 billion over a decade to help feed schoolchildren from low-income families during the summer. Photo Credit: AP

A reader wrote to Newsday about a cafeteria worker in Pennsylvania who quit after a schoolchild was denied a hot lunch because of a negative balance in the child’s account [“Cold-lunch policy is an unkind strategy,” Letters, Sept. 29].

My wife works in a school cafeteria on Long Island, and this is common. Children with large outstanding balances are given a free meal of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a drink.

The real problem here is the parents, not the school. The community where my wife works is relatively affluent. Disadvantaged children get free lunches; the children of wealthier parents are usually the ones with the negative balances. Those parents refuse or can’t be bothered with keeping the accounts funded. Letters and emails are sent to parents, calls are made, and these parents still ignore the situation.

A lot of people do not realize that lunch programs are self-sustaining. Money taken in pays the workers. If the local program loses money because of unpaid balances, cafeteria workers are laid off or have their hours slashed. While denying a hot lunch to a child is not fair, neither is someone losing a job because of deadbeat parents.

Dave Lorthioir, West Sayville


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