“I had the food on my plate and they said, ‘Oh you have no money and your account isn’t working, so you have to put it back.’ It was kind of embarrassing,” Andrade said.
He’s one of hundreds of middle and high school students who receives federally funded reduced lunches. “I had to spend the whole day without eating any food and it was frustrating because I was hungry,” Gustavo said.
Recently school officials were made aware of the fact that some students whose accounts had insufficient funds were being denied meals. “I get so frustrated when he has nothing to eat. He’s hungry and can’t pay attention in school,” his father Raesterley said.
After hearing complaints from parents the Framingham School Committee voted unanimously to no longer withhold meals from students who can’t afford to pay for them. “We are putting these kids under terrible stress from that fear of it plus they are hungry and can’t function so we have to do something tonight about this,” School Committee member Geoff Epstein said.
Some students were being denied because they were only a few dollars over their accounts. “I was appalled it happened at all but even more frustrating when I discovered one kid was a denied a meal because he had a balance of $1.20 or under $10. It seemed like no one knew this was happening,” Framingham City Councilor Michael Cannon said.
The school committee plans to come up with a long-term fix. Meanwhile, the city will be responsible to cover the tab, which could cost around $30K. “I don’t think withholding a meal is the right thing to do, I just think we need to be careful how we spend taxpayer dollars,” Framingham Superintendent, Robert Tremblay said.