Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Carmel on the Case: Lunch Lesson
We've all heard of the class bully stealing a student's lunch money. Well, what about a cafeteria worker taking back a child's lunch. Tonight, a South Florida mom wants to teach the Miami-Dade School System a lesson in kindness. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is - on the case.
WSVN -- Could you take food away from this little girl?
School workers did just that to 5-year-old Kayla Harrell, and now her mother is furious.
Choncia Harrell: "We need to make sure that our children eat."
Choncia Harrell says it happened at Norwood Elementary in Northwest Miami-Dade where Kayla is in Kindergarten.
Kayla had a tray of chicken nuggets - but at the cash register they realized her account didn't have enough money to cover the $1.25 charge.
Choncia Harrell: "The worker in the cafeteria took the lunch and told her she couldn't eat it because she didn't have any money on her account. They gave her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead."
But Kayla didn't want the sandwich and watched as her nuggets were thrown in the trash.
Kayla: "I don't like when she take the food from me."
Choncia Harrell: "I want to know do our taxpayers know that our food that we're feeding, that we're paying for, we're throwing food in the garbage - this is unacceptable."
Harrell says when she complained to the school she was told it was the policy.
Choncia Harrell: "They can't put it back for other children to eat which is understandable, but why is it a policy to take it from them in the first place and throw it in the garbage."
And there's another issue - what if little kayla had been allergic to peanuts?
Harrell tells us school officials say they asked her little girl.
Choncia Harrell: "And I said to her well she's five years old - how would she know she's allergic to peanut butter? Why didn't someone call me."
And why didn't someone call Harrell that Kayla's account was empty?
She was she was never notified but she is convinced a policy that would take food from a child - needs to be changed.
Penny Parham from Miami-Dade Schools: "We serve 211,000 meals a day and you have to set a policy and give guidelines on how to handle it."
Penny Parham is in charge of food and nutrition for the Miami-Dade district.
She says each school sets its own policy. It can allow a child to borrow money, or it can buy the meal for a child or it can give an alternative meal. She admits peanut butter could be a problem.
Penny Parham: "You bring up a good point that peanut allergies are, are something that needs to be considered."
And not to be lost in all of this is the impact on a child. Kayla says she didn't like her lunch being thrown away.
Carmel: "Sad, really why?"
Kayla: "Because I want some more food."
Penny Parham: "We certainly have absolutely no intention of making a child feel bad - making them feel embarrassed."
The school district is hoping to avoid this in the future. In the works -- a take off off the sun pass system that would allow parents to pay on line- and check accounts to make sure - there's money for lunch.
For more information, or if you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or In Broward at 954-921-CLUE