Attleboro cafeteria controversy plays out in school committee me - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

Attleboro cafeteria controversy plays out in school committee meeting

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By Abbey Niezgoda

aniezgoda@abc6.com

The fallout continues after dozens of children were denied lunch at Coelho Middle School in Attleboro. For the first time Monday night, parents came face to face with the food service company whose workers told students if they could not pay, they could not eat.

In the crowd at the school committee meeting was a fifth-grader from Coelho, who watched as her friends went hungry.

"Kids were really upset. Some of them were even crying," Abigail Aronson said. "I didn't think it was right, so I thought I would speak up."

Aronson was the youngest person to testify during public comment at the meeting. Three representatives from Whitsons, the food service company, were in the audience listening.

Whitsons apologized for what they say was a "gross misjudgment" as school committee members asked them questions, trying to find out just where the ball was dropped.

Whitsons blames a breakdown in communication. They have fired four cafeteria workers as a result, but they still will not say why those workers thought they were not supposed to give those children food.

Parents of students who went hungry say they are frustrated.

"My son is very upset and he doesn't even want to go to school now," parent Jo-Ann Blanchard said. "They promised this would never happen again and this is the sixth time this has happened to my son."

Whitsons is re-training their workers and offering free lunch at the end of this week. In the meantime, there is an ongoing investigation into whether or not any school staff were aware of what was happening in the cafeteria, and did nothing to stop it.

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