(SALT LAKE CITY) — Some Salt Lake City parents got upset this week after school officials took lunches away from their kids and threw the food in the trash because their cafeteria accounts were depleted.
The incident occurred Tuesday at the Uintah Elementary School with as many as 40 students affected.
An official with the Salt Lake City School District’s nutrition department explained to ABC News that food taken from children is thrown away due to safety and sanitation reasons. Specifically, once a lunch is served to one student, it can’t be given to a different child.
The district revealed in a Facebook posting that any child whose lunch was taken was given a substitute of fruit and milk.
Meanwhile, the district said in a statement that school officials called parents on Monday and Tuesday to inform them of their lack of funds. However, parents have reported being surprised after learning of the negative balance on their accounts.
The statement expressed remorse for the incident and said the district is investigating the actions taken by school officials.
“Our jobs are to take care of our kids, not take their food away,” said Salt Lake City School District Nutrition Supervisor Laura Larsen.
Diane Pratt-Heavner, spokesperson with the School Nutrition Association, told ABC News that the incident points to a lack of regulation when it comes to school lunches.
“The USDA provides no guidance on children showing up without lunch money, which puts the school between a rock and a hard place,” Pratt-Heavner said.
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
Ralph Ellis and Sara Sidner, CNN
Holly Yan, Chuck Johnston and David Williams, CNN