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Salt Lake school officials blame system glitch for lunch debacle

Published: Saturday, Aug. 1 2015 3:02 p.m. MDT

My Payments Plus, a system parents use to pay their children's school lunch balances, is demonstrated at a Salt Lake City School Board meeting Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2014. A glitch in the system is said to have led to Uintah Elementary School students' lunches being taken away on Jan. 29. (Jay Dortzbach, Deseret News) My Payments Plus, a system parents use to pay their children's school lunch balances, is demonstrated at a Salt Lake City School Board meeting Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2014. A glitch in the system is said to have led to Uintah Elementary School students' lunches being taken away on Jan. 29. (Jay Dortzbach, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City School District officials say a glitch in a new payment system is to blame for several elementary school students going without lunch last week.

A board meeting was held Tuesday night to discuss why dozens of students at Uintah Elementary School had their lunches taken away from them and thrown into the garbage on Jan. 29 after they were told they did not have enough money in their school accounts. Representatives with the district's Child Nutrition Services said the problem came from a new system, My Payments Plus, which was installed at the beginning of the school year.

Kelly Orton, director of Child Nutrition Services for Salt Lake City School District, talks about what led to Uintah Elementary School students' lunches being taken away, during a school board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014. (Jay Dortzbach, Deseret News) Kelly Orton, director of Child Nutrition Services for Salt Lake City School District, talks about what led to Uintah Elementary School students' lunches being taken away, during a school board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014. (Jay Dortzbach, Deseret News)

District Child Nutrition Services director Kelly Orton admitted that the department didn't follow procedures. Orton said parents were either not given enough time to add money into lunch accounts for their children or parents weren't notified at all of the low funds.

"We took trays from and embarrassed students. In this, I am sorry," Orton said. "We weren't effective in getting the word out to the community that it was there … and how to operate it."

The previous system notified parents when their child's school lunch accounts reached $10. However, My Payments Plus doesn't send notices unless parents request it. Child Nutrition Services claims that a letter was sent out.

"To me, it feels like not taking the responsibility where it needs to be," said parent Sarah Turley. "We did not get any notices."

"We feel no child should be denied a lunch ever," added parent Ashley Hoopes.

Orton said the company has changes it would like to implement. Effective immediately, parents will be notified at a $10 balance and each day that there are negative funds. Students will also be able to receive full meals for up to a week.

Some parents who attended the meeting said they still believe the school needs to release an apology.

"Look each child in the eye and bring 600 cupcakes," said parent Lynn Lenardo.

District officials have said they are still investigating whether taking lunches away was proper protocol in this situation.

Email: ddolan@deseretnews.com

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company