‘His Eyes Welled Up With Tears’: Penn. School Cafeteria Worker Quits Over ‘Lunch Shaming’ Policy

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 were 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.

The policy states:

“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 of the first instance in which she was forced to remove the hot food.

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.