Erika Lukes, whose 11-year-old daughter attends Uintah Elementary in Salt Lake City and had her lunch taken, said she thought her account with the school was paid up. She characterized the experience as "traumatic and humiliating."
"I think it’s despicable," she told the Tribune. "These are young children that shouldn’t be punished or humiliated for something the parents obviously need to clear up."
The Associated Press reported that parents said about 50 students actually had their lunches taken.
Jason Olsen, a spokesman for the school district, told the newspaper that a child-nutrition manager visited the school and decided to withhold lunches after becoming aware that a large number of Uintah students had outstanding lunch balances.
The mix-up occurred when cafeteria workers were unable to determine who owed money and who didn't until after lunches were distributed, Olsen said, so students' lunches were thrown away and they were given milk and fruit instead.
He told the Tribune that throwing away the students' lunches could have been easily prevented, but did not say it was a mistake.
"If students were humiliated and upset," Olsen said. "that’s very unfortunate and not what we wanted to happen."
The Salt Lake City school district later issued an apology via its Facebook page, saying it would investigate whether guidelines were properly followed for notifying parents of negative or zero balances.
Image via Shutterstock / Mike Flippo
This post has been updated.