(Meredith/WEWS/CNN) -- A 9-year-old boy from Green, Ohio, said he was humiliated on his birthday when a cafeteria worker took away his hot meal and replaced it with a cold sandwich due to an outstanding balance.
Jefferson Sharpnack said he tried to purchase cheesy breadsticks at Green Primary School on Sept. 3, but experienced an issue at the checkout line.
“I got my cheesy breadsticks and put in my number," he said. "And when I was going to check out, the lunch lady didn’t say anything and took away my cheesy breadsticks and sauce."
He said the cafeteria worker reached into the fridge and gave him a cheese sandwich instead, embarrassing him in front of his friends.
The boy's grandmother, Diane Bailey, said prior to the incident, Jefferson came home from school on Aug. 30 with a note stating he owed $9 for his lunch account.
Bailey said she spoke to a school administrator to straighten things out. She said Jefferson and his two brothers recently moved to Ohio to live with her, and they are supposed to be enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program.
The school reportedly told Bailey she could write a check for her grandson's lunch balance until the free and reduced lunch registration paperwork was processed.
Bailey said after speaking with the school administrator, she thought Jefferson was in good-standing, until he came home from school complaining about his lunch being taken away.
“In my mind, he didn’t owe anything,” Bailey said. “And my other question is, if they take the food off of your tray, they have to throw it away. You’re going to throw it away and not feed the child? That doesn’t make sense to me.”
Green Local Schools released the following statement about the incident:
We are in the process of looking into this specific situation. We were not notified directly from the family, but district employees reached out after being made aware of a social media post. The lunch program is complex due to federal requirements. As it relates specifically to our policy, students receive multiple means of communication when their accounts become negative. Currently students who are $15 or more in debt are provided a lunch that includes fruit, vegetables, and either a cheese quesadilla or cheese sandwich.
Additionally, our district works hard to ensure that students who qualify for free and reduced lunches receive them. We have Family Support Specialists on staff whose primary jobs are to reach out and help families in need. It is important to us that students have positive experiences in the lunchroom and all areas of the school. For that reason, we will continue to look into our practices and come up with solutions that work for our students and families.