When a little boy’s food was taken away on his birthday due to a $9 lunch debt, his grandmother spoke up.

Sometimes policies can seem a little nonsensical, especially when it comes to children and basic kindness. Take this story about a nine-year-old in Uniontown, Ohio, for example, whose school lunch was snatched away from him because of a $9 balance on his account.

Why A 9-year-old’s Lunch Was Taken Away From Him

Jefferson Sharpnack came home to his family in September 2019 upset that his ninth birthday didn’t exactly go as planned after a terrible lunch experience.

“I got my cheesy breadsticks and put in my number,” Jefferson explained to an ABC news affiliate. “And when I was going to check out, the lunch lady didn’t say anything, took away my cheesy breadsticks and sauce, put them over there, and took out bread on cheese from the fridge and put it on my tray.”

Jefferson Sharpnack came home to his family in September 2019 upset that his ninth birthday didn’t exactly go as planned after a terrible lunch experience.

“I got my cheesy breadsticks and put in my number,” Jefferson explained to an ABC news affiliate. “And when I was going to check out, the lunch lady didn’t say anything, took away my cheesy breadsticks and sauce, put them over there, and took out bread on cheese from the fridge and put it on my tray.”

What wasn’t explained was the lack of communication: Jefferson and his siblings were under the temporary custody of their grandmother, Diane Bailey, who put them in the free and reduced lunch program. At the time, she was told she could just write a check for any balance until the new paperwork went through.

You’re going to throw it away and not feed the child? That doesn’t make sense to me.

“In my mind, he didn’t owe anything. I owed the money, the parents, the school district,” Bailey told the ABC outlet. “And my other question is, if they take the food off of your tray, they have to throw it away. You would take the food off a tray and you can’t reserve it?” she continued.

“He was bullied, he was bullied by the school officials. He had his lunch removed from his tray at the age of nine,” she also added to a local Fox affiliate.

How One Incident At A School Inspired District-Wide Changes

Bailey was understandably upset, so she made several complaints and took to social media, where people shared the story. Finally, Green Local Schools took notice. The feedback was enough for Superintendent Jeff Miller to change the policy and ensure all students get their standard lunch from now on.

“We are committed to providing our students with a positive, safe learning environment and experience in every aspect of the school day. All students enrolled in Pre-K through twelfth grades will receive the standard lunch for the day at their respective buildings regardless of their account balance,” he said in a statement.

“[We] will continue to work with families to ensure they have access to all available resources to assist with purchasing school meals,” Miller said.

“We are sensitive to the financial hardship families incur and challenges presented due to the cost of school breakfast and lunches. Our staff, in coordination with Family Support Specialists, will continue to work with families to ensure they have access to all available resources to assist with purchasing school meals.”

The solution seemed more than reasonable to Bailey, who revealed to the Fox affiliate she appreciated the district’s prompt and “perfect solution.”

As for her grandson’s birthday? That was salvaged by a dinner at his favorite restaurant and cupcakes.

How One Grandmother Proved The Importance Of Speaking Up

Sure, some feel as though the school officials in this situation could have handled things differently. But at the end of the day, the situation brought light to a difficult policy and inspired lasting change.

However, food insecurity is an ongoing issue that affects all communities and possibly even those you know. With inflation and people still trying to catch up post-pandemic, it can be difficult for families to access nutritious and filling food on a regular basis.

That’s why it’s so important to give back when you can. Whether you organize a food drive, donate money to your local food bank, or raise awareness through a GoFundMe on your birthday, it’s more necessary now than ever to help make sure everyone has enough.

Jefferson’s story may not be unique, but here’s hoping it inspires more of us to give back and raise awareness so kids and their families can have full tummies, too.

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