ATTLEBORO, Mass. (AP) -- A food service company spokesman said Friday it has fired four employees after about two dozen students at a Massachusetts middle school were denied lunches this week because their prepaid meal accounts ran low.
"There is a zero tolerance for any individual who leaves a child hungry," said Todd Shapiro, a spokesman for Islandia, N.Y.-based Whitsons Culinary Group.
The lunch decision outraged parents, who said some students at Coelho Middle School in Attleboro cried Tuesday after being told they couldn't eat. Parents and school officials said some students were told to throw their lunches away when they reached the checkout.
Whitsons officials apologized Friday and said it was a violation of its policy that only occurred at Coelho, which has students in fifth through eighth grades.
Marketing vice president Holly Van Seggern said Friday the company would give free lunch to all Coelho students for three days next week and also host a barbeque for students and families at a later time.
"There is nothing we take more seriously than the health and welfare of the children and families we serve, providing them with the nutrition they need so that they have the sustenance to engage in their studies on a daily basis," she said. "The fact that some of these boys and girls were denied access to their lunches is inexcusable."
She said the company has taken steps to ensure that no student will be denied lunch again, and the company will notify parents directly when their account balances are low.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.