October 5, 2009

There IS Such a Thing as a FREE LUNCH


"Did you have a good day at school today?" I asked my daughter as she hopped off the school bus last Thursday.

Camber nodded her head and rubbed her belly. "I had popcorn chicken and chocolate milk today for lunch!" she chirped.

"Huh?" I asked, confused. I was fairly certain that the peanut butter sandwich that I had put in her lunchbox that morning wasn't capable of such an extreme makeover.

"How did you buy lunch?" I asked. "I didn't give you any money."

My daughter looked at me like I was missing a few marbles. "You don't need any money to buy lunch," she explained. "You just give the lunch lady your student ID number, and she gives you a tray."

This was how I learned about the elementary school's credit program. Instead of sending your children to school with wads of cash each day, parents are encouraged to deposit money into a special cafeteria account. For unexplained reasons, the school allows children without accounts to buy lunches on credit as well.

I was scared to ask the next question, but I did anyway.

"How many free lunches have you received since school started?" I asked.

My daughter shrugged her shoulders. "Like a million," she replied.

I smiled through gritted teeth.

The next day, I received a bill in the mail for $41.60, the cost of 16 school lunches.

This morning, I solidified my claim to the title of the Meanest Mom in America by firing off a cease-and-desist letter to the school cafeteria.

77 comments

marybt said...

oh my gosh. SNORT. That is too funny! What was she doing with the lunches that you packed her?

When I was in elementary school, if your lunch account was empty and you forgot your lunch money, you had to fill out a charge slip that your parents had to sign that night. And all they would let you charge was a PB&J sandwich and milk. lol.

Of course, lunches were only 90 cents back then too. (They went to $1.10 by the time I hit 6th grade.) Who ever heard of $2.60 for a school lunch?! That's nuts!

Anonymous said...

THAT is hilarious. My kid loves the crappy school lunches also. More often than not, she sticks her nose up at what I cook, and I'll toot my own horn here and say my cooking is WAY better than the school's. My brother told me I should serve supper on a school lunch tray and she'd devour it.

I too am shocked at the cost of your school lunches. Ours are $1.55.

MaNiC MoMMy™ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MaNiC MoMMy™ said...

Haha, that is cute! My son has a pre-pay program at his junior high and I'm so glad because I HATE making lunches. : )

Yvette said...

My cute little daughter did the same thing also. She's actually 9 years old now. If she doesnt like what I have at the house,she just pretends like we dont have any money. Because she knows they wont turn her away. When and if I catch her she loses playing with friends which is death to her.

Bart, Jeni, Jessica, Brian and Chelsea said...

My 1st grader came home stating that she had chicken nuggets for lunch when I had sent her a packed lunch as well. That, along with the chocolate milk that she frequently gets when she doesn't want what ever I put in her thermos, she was costing me plenty. (Waaaay to much for what they gave her I can assure you!)

I talked to the school, but I will definitely try your poster idea if there are any further issues.

Michelle said...

Oh my gosh! that is sooo sneaky! My mom would have killed me if I did that! I totally looked forward to certain school lunches, but my parents said I could only buy lunch a few times a month....

Luckily my parents made realllly good sandwiches... I never traded or anything even though we never had fruit-rollups or the good stuff

livieandhermommies said...

Silly me - i thought I had the only free lunch/free milk child around!! What makes my story sadder is when I appraoched the principal, with my 6 yr old in tow, to ask her to explain that no the items were not free, all she kept repeating was "we would never turn down a child in need!" All attempts to explain there was no "need" just a confusion led to nowhere!!

MamaOtwins+1 said...

LOL - I would have done the same thing.

Lin said...

Wow, you can REALLY get just about everything on 'credit' now, cant you? Ha ha...hilarious!

Tricia said...

That is hysterical. My oldest son was buying "extras" last year. I found out the extra = chocolate cake.

I honestly forgot to pack my youngest son a drink last week. That afternoon I received an automated call from the school cafeteria stating that he had a negative balance on his account. He bought a single chocolate milk.

I can't believe the school waited until she owed $41.60. That's a lot. Our kids can only charge so much before they get a PB&J sandwich. I'm sure the maximum amount one is able to charge is way less than $41.60.

Felicia said...

Now THAT is hilarious!

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Oh man, we had a similar first-grade scandal around here when my son admitted he's been telling his teacher he didn't have a snack so she would give him raisins. Turns out he didn't like the fruit crisps I was sending (and special ordered at great cost from Amazon, I might add). I made him fess up and apologize. THat was traumatic enough to have stifled his criminal ways for at least 3 or 4 days now. Oh, and he made a request for only "wet fruit" for snacks from now on. What do I look like, a walking produce supply?

Desert Rose said...

Oh my gosh, this really happens in other families too! I've had the same problem with my girls..and then this year my son decided to do it for extra milks. The lunch line lady now knows me well.

Coco said...

Bahaha this is great. A million? Wow 16 has changed a lot since I was in school!

Rachelle @ "Mommy? I'm Hungry!" said...

Lol!I had to give a chuckle! Our's are $1.75 here, so my little one is supposed to come home with a quarter. Well after I found out she'd been buying an ice cream at lunch I knew where that quarter was going! I had to send a note to the lunch lady not to let her buy any more! I'd rather her eat her lunch that ice cream! =)

noelle said...

thank you for making me laugh today! my elementary school had the same policy, so i would take my lunch money and spend it all on candy at the convenience store on the way to school. my mom was always so confused at the end of the year when she had to go settle up with the school office.

The Simmons Family said...

Hysterical!! I can't believe they let them purchase lunch on credit. At our schools, if you don't have money or a prepaid account... you get two slices of white bread with a slice of plastic cheese in the middle, a milk, and an apple.

Thanks for the laugh!

3 Little Snaps said...

Now THAT is funny!

Michele said...

OMG! I laughed so hard at this! This is hilarious! My six-year-old pulled a similar thing on me last year...apparently you can also buy ice cream on credit at her school (I think her program works the same as your daughter's program) and I got a bill. I went down to the school and asked them how they could give her something for which she did not pay, had no money on her account, and didn't even ask if this was okay with me ahead of time. No notice was sent home from school telling of their credit policy. And it wasn't like it was for real food--if you can call that cafeteria stuff real food. It was ice cream which she certainly did not need. Grrrr....

And, yes, my daughter prefers the cafeteria food to my cooking. Sigh.

can-this said...

too funny!

Golden Girl {Kiki} said...

oy! i had a credit program at college and the bill was sent to my parents. they always paid it and i never knew what the totals were. i found the bills years later and was shocked. i will never let my kid have a credit line at school. never. love that poster. take care.

MommyAmy said...

Too funny!

I was addicted to school lunch when I was a kid. My parents specifically gave me an "allowance" each week that was the same amount as school lunch in the hopes that I would rather save my money and take food from home. Did not work! I took that money and used it to eat school lunch every day. lol

Corbett Family said...

A similar thing happened with my son at the beginning of Kindergarten last year. I had put some money in his lunch account at the beginning of the year so he could buy a milk (for $.50!--I think it was $.05 when I was a kid) to go with the lunch he brought from home. I got an e-mail telling me the balance was below $10 and I went on the website and saw that a few $2.60 lunches and an ice cream had been bought with the account. When I confronted him about it, he denied buying a school lunch or ice cream, but then when I told him he could choose to buy his lunch or take it, he readily agreed that he might want to buy his lunch sometimes if he liked what was on the menu. Fortunately, this year, his first grade teacher requires a note from a parent before she will let the kids buy ice cream.

Mandy and Alex said...

OMG! I am so out of the loop! Since when did Elementary kids get student ID's? At first, I thought she traded her lunch for someone else's because that's what I would have done. But really, I LOVE the poster! The school is darn lucky that's all they got.

Heather B said...

OMG!!!!!!!!!!! i JUST had this conversation with my daughter!!!!! She's 9 - going on 32 and she thinks she can make her own decisions! She was literally packing her breakfast and her lunch every evening for the next day...it wasnt until my better half went to the school to check on the other rugrat that he found out what she was doing. She was basically eating 3 FULL square meals, in the space of 8 hours. We should all be so lucky! Fortunately, we were only $6 in debt and we talked to the school about making her "work to pay it off"; so she was on "trash duty" for the next entire week. Unfortunately, we still had to pay the $6 - but at least, it was ONLY $6.
(sorry for my long comment - but i just HAD to share!)

Michelle said...

I am a lurker but had to comment because my best friend had the exact same thing happen! They serve breakfast at our elementary for kids who's parents work early or need financial assistance. My friends daughter was eating breakfast at home and then going to school and having a second breakfast on credit. She didn't find out until the school called her because her daughter had no more money left which had been paid for her lunches! My friend was livid! You are not alone.

lisa westphal said...

Ditto in our home-front. . .Send a lunch. . .eats "FREE" lunch (Ha!). . .tosses out his sack lunch. . .and out to recess he goes!

Heather A said...

My daughter is a kindergartner, so school is new to her. She came home and told us that she wanted to eat hot lunch. She also proceeded to tell us that lunch was free. We told her to ask her teacher and if hot lunches were free, she could have them. We never heard back from her. Wonder why.

Connie said...

My Dad has always said, "If someone offers you something for free, take very little of it!" Now we know that SOMEONE pays for our free lunches. It's a good thing she didn't really have a million!

Denise @ Sunflowers, Chocolate and Little Boys said...

That is so funny! but I have to admit it wouldnt have been funny if my kid did it....thats alot of money!!!

Scrapingirl said...

Oh my gosh!! That is sooo funny. Did she wonder why she always went to school with a lunch? Did she think it was for a snack. hahaha!!!

Courtney said...

Oh yes, that happened to me last year. I had to call the school 3 times and send a note to her teacher before they stopped giving her lunch.

"The REASON we don't let her buy a lunch is because we can't AFFORD it!"

"You can apply for financial assistance."

"My husband is a dentist, something tells me we wouldn't qualify."

Courtney said...

Oh, and don't for get the

"We're not going to let her go hungry!" they say in a shocked voice.

"Did you check her lunch box? TRUST ME, she's NOT hungry."

Whirlwind said...

OMG - I had to do the same thing - only my kid wasn't buying lunches, she was buying ICE CREAM every single day. I prepay their lunches ahead of time and my kindergartener figures out that as long as she has money in her account, they will let her buy ice cream. They quickly got a "do not sell her ice cream UNLESS you get a note from me".

Jennifer said...

ahh... yes... we have that same credit program where you are encouraged to pay ahead... it annoys me.. my son only eats at school once a week, but they don't want him carrying the $2.10... they want me to send in $20 to "pay on his account". **SIGH** Thankfully, he hasn't thought to "charge" lunch yet.... $41?? WOW!

Texas Dimons said...

Totally had that happen! but it was with the snacks...$20 of ice cream, water and chips! I now start every school year with a note telling them to put a snack hold on their food accounts!

Alicia said...

LMAO That is hilarious!

Kamity said...

I'm frightened for my kids now. They let elementary school kids choose to buy ICE CREAM?! (Can you say obesity?)

I wish I could've had ice cream when I was in elementary school! Dang!

Lolli said...

That is the best post I have read all day. I'd say all week, but well, the week just started. Classic. SImply classic.

Maria @BOREDmommy said...

HILARIOUS!!

Mary said...

I pay 2.60 a day but that also include breakfast as well. I have to be to work 30 minutes before he goes to school thus forcing me to have him eat breakfast and lunch there.

I paid a certain amount when school started to go into his account. I asked when would I know his account was low and needed more money the lunch lady stated oh don't worry we will send a note home with your child letting you know when you are getting low. So I didn't worry about it, until today, when my 5 year old came home upset as can be stating he didn't have any money to buy lunch and that he was going to have to starve from now on. He then gave me a note stating he was in the hole a huge amount of 3.60! I couldn't believe they were makes threats towards my son saying he would no longer be allowed to eat because they didn't send me a note home LAST week letting me know that I was low on lunch money funds, no they wait until he's offically in the hole and makes threats to break his legs before they let him eat again....Go go school lunch ladies, don't mess with them!

www.marycateutah.blogspot.com

Karen said...

You're not the first person I've heard this story from. Seems like kids are being taught about modern-day credit pretty early, huh?

Meagan Francis said...

Hilarious! My son racked up a doozy of a bill at his school before I figured it out. I was very confused when the bill for $51 came home alerting me to the fact that my son wouldn't be able to eat lunch anymore unless I paid up. I wonder how many calls they get from parents assuring them that NO, in fact they are not sending them off to school empty handed and trying to pull off a cafeteria heist?

Michele Horne said...

Ditto here! I am reduced to checking her account online every couple of days and reprimand her when necessary (which doesn't happen so much now that she knows big brother is watching!)

Shannon said...

I've also had a similar issue...

I'd put money in my daughter's account... only to have her bring home notes about how her account has been overdrawn. Came to find out not only was she buying ice cream every day, but also a bottle of flavored water instead of milk.

Needless to say, she packs her lunch a lot more often!

Kirsha said...

This is toooo funny!!! what a resourceful little girl!! Talk about getting what ya want!!! love the wanted poster you made (she looks so inocent....who could tell her no???)

Amy said...

I laughed and laughed because I have threatened my 7 year old that I am going to call the lunch lady and tell her that Charlie is not allowed to get school lunch. Ever!!

"But Mooooom,"he says, "I just love chicken nugget day!"

When did school lunch become so awesome?

Heidi said...

You are my new hero! I LOVE that letter! I can't believe that you sent it to them! Great times.
And WOW! your prices are terrible, our school lunches are MUCH more reasonably priced than yours are. I can feed two of my children for $27.00 a month.
I think my kids would get a bag of popcorn and dried beans instead of paying that much.

Angie C said...

My daughter did the exact same thing in first grade. She'd conveniently leave her lunchbox in her classroom and tell the cafeteria lady she forgot it at home. I love how you handled the situation. BTW, I'm new to the blogging world and I absolutely love your blog and added it to my blogroll. (I just learned that word, haha). Keep up the hilarious work!

torynsmommy said...

my oldest sons school charges 2.20 for lunch.. and since his class is last for lunch there is nothing really left over.. maybe some wilted salad, a brusied apple and tuna sandwiches.. like your daughters school they have the ID card that they have that runs as a credit card.. unlike your daughters school, my sons school cards are like debit cards and tells the caf. lady how much is on the card.. because if your child does not have money on the card they give them a "cold" lunch that consists of a 1/2 cheese sandwich, and a small apple and a 6 oz bottle of water.. oh and they will charge you a full 2.20 for that lunch.. when do they send out reminders that your child needs money added to thier account.. once a month.. ugh luckly grandma and grandpa can not think to let me put my kids on free or reduced lunch because that would make the family look bad.. ugh.. it doesnt look bad and if you qualify the school district actually get a bonus for more food for thier lunch program.. grandparents today are too proud to let thier grandchildren get help now days..

Julie said...

Same thing happened here as with others. Goodies taking all the money in the account that was suppose to last for a month...gone in 2 weeks. My son in Kindergarten didn't know they weren't "free"

In this day of modern technology...I should be able to be online and see what was scanned and purchased.

Until then threats of bodily harm will have to do.

The Cranes said...

I'm pretty sure our school only lets you charge 3 times to keep from something like that happening.

We battle over school lunches all th time. I hate that they give kids choices and it's way too easy to spend more than you want them to...

Emily said...

When i was in high school in Missouri, lunch was $1.50 so everyday, i had lunch there, cuz it was cheap! For $1.50/day, I think we saved money.

In california, lunch was at least $5 a meal...so we never ate lunch at the cafeteria that had q'doba and other goodies.

I don't think i'll have the time to make lunches for my kids, so I hope they aren't too expensive! Really, CHILDREN shouldn't have these sort of choices for lunch. We had option A and option B. That's it. Ice cream? Ridiculous, they don't need that AT ALL! I bet they can get sodas and candy, too, oye vez.

becca said...

oh my gosh!! this so happened to me with my first grader! and when he was in kindergarten he managed to get "free" breakfasts too! soooo funny!!!

$40?? I would have fallen out of my chair!

~Mama Skates~ said...

hilarious! our schools r the same way - u just punch in ur lunch number & viola - "free" food! our's would never let me build up a bill that high tho - i get a note if they're negative $3 ~lol~

Confessions of a Mother, Lawyer, Crazy Woman said...

Hysterical!

Contact Us! said...

My kids love to buy lunch too. The first year of the "credit" program, the lunch ladies were still working out how to let parents know that the account was in the negative....how much fun to receive a bill at the end of the school year for.....$142.00.

hansenfive said...

that's pretty funny. i'm surprised she was able to hide it for 16 lunches...and where have all her lunches gone? lol

crazynursingstudent said...

My brother used to do that to my mum too :)

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Anonymous said...

I discovered a $50 lunch bill stuffed in the bottom of my oldest son's backpack...he was not only getting hot lunch every day, but also getting breakfast as well! I don't know where he put all that food, but he never came home with any of it! We had a little lesson in economics that night...

Maree said...

Love it!!! Your lunches are too expensive! Ours are $2.00 for elementary students, and that includes 2 choices of fresh fruit or vegetables. And I live in California--where EVERYTHING is expensive. But if my kids HAD to eat school lunch every day, they'd hate it.

Katie said...

My son received some strong warnings not to do this, and he didn't. BUT he did think he could just pick up some milk if he wanted, so he did. Thank you, dear son, for letting me insist to the school that there must be some mistake on your account, before letting the milk thing slip out.

1stTimeMom2Ella said...

Ours works on the credit/debit program too. Punch in your PIN number and the money is automatically deducted from your prepaid account. We learned the hard way that stepdaughter preferred the ala carte items and went through a months worth of money in a couple weeks.

We have since cancelled access to ala carte items. She buys them with her own allowance/cash (part of a money management lesson). We pay for regular school lunches and that is it. She was in 6th grade when we first started with this. A breadstick, a cheesestick, and ice cream do not constitute a meal. No wonder she was starving when she got home at 4pm.

She was still upset this year (8th grade) when I immediately cancelled the ala carte access before school even started. "I thought that was only for a little while?!" No way. They have at least 3 choices for hot/regular meals and all the fixings to make up a regular hot lunch. Just becuase it isn't her favorite items doesn't mean she can't eat them. It's $2.25 per lunch this year. We don't qualify for free or reduced lunches either.

I do love the technology these days though. I can pay for her lunches online, I can track if she buys any extras, I can track her grades too. Love it!

sivab said...

Love your poster! My 5 year old was all jazzed after having strawberry milk at school. It wasn't long before I found out that was only after she had been sticking with chocolate for so long. The shocker being I never gave her money for milk I told her she couldn't do that and she said it was free you just had to "move your popsicle stick to a flavor" and then you get milk. One day she came home sad because they told her she couldn't do it anymore-most likely because the other gallons were never paid for. I kept waiting for a bill but I never did get one.

MormonSurrogate said...

This made me laugh my butt off!!!!

Anonymous said...

HA! Kids are so amazing! One of the best things to do at school is have lunch with your child so you can meet the lunch ladies and make your wishes clear with the cashier. THEY LISTEN!! Having the lunch ladies on your radar comes in much more handy than the librarian!

Krista said...

I "allow" my guy to choose 2 hot lunches a week. This drives me crazy because I know he's not eating the green beans, sliced pineapple or whatever "healthy" tidbit they're serving with the hot dog.

Megan B said...

I'm gasping! HA HA HA HA HA!!!!

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Bethany said...

Oh my gosh! You have me laughing SO hard here....geez, I'm surprised the school does that!!!

Crystal said...

LOL That happened to my sister last year with my niece but she caught it pretty quickly because it was extras she was getting hot lunch everyday! I fortunately havent had that problem yet. Alana is in special needs class and they dont want to give her any icecream lol I dont even think they have that option there? I dunno and Kaila is in half day kindergarten so no school lunch at all from home or hot. We have reduced lunch for Alana anyway which means its free 3rd grade and under.

My Ice Cream Diary said...

Oh my gosh, my daughter did the same thing to me 2 years ago. Not only that but on the days I dropped her off a little early she would go in and get a "free" breakfast from the morning program (this after a bug pancake breakfast). I was so mad. If I wanted to spend good money on a hot lunch I would have taken myself to Taco Bell.

Casey said...

We had this happen with my son last year. He thought he was being sneaky but when I got a big bill like that too he got the riot act. I think it's manipulative that the school would set up a program like that and not inform parents (they didn't let us know about it AT ALL, until I got a bill) I LOVE the idea of a letter to the cafeteria. I might do it.

Kristi E said...

That is hilarious, when my oldest started school several years ago they didn't have a charge program and the kids got a pb or cheese sandwich a milk and a piece of fruit. One day I didn't have correct change for him and he told me, it's ok mom they give kids with no lunch money a good lunch..LOL

Nicole said...

That is hysterical. My oldest did the same thing. Though, I would send her with $10, then at night I would ask where my change was. She said that she did not have any. After asking where it was she told me the Lunch Lady had it! After this happend the 2nd time I was wondering! Where is this money going. Finally just as I was about to fire off a note to the school we get the info about the Lumch Credit program. The Lunch lady was taking it and putting toward her ID! I just about died with laughter and ignorance!

Wendy said...

I too have received a mystery bill in the past. This is too funny!