ATTLEBORO, MA (WJAR/CNN) - At Coelho Middle School, the phrase rings true: There is no such thing as a free lunch.
"I told him this is bullying. That's neglect, child abuse," said Jo-An Blanchard, whose son owed $1 on his prepaid lunch card, so Tuesday, he couldn't eat.
Cafeteria workers Tuesday turned away dozens of kids because so many prepaid lunch cards had a negative balance.
These students were told in front of their peers that they didn't have enough money and were forced to sit through the lunch hour without any food.
"He was mortified," Blanchard said. "All of his friends were staring at him, because he couldn't have a lunch."
"I apologize to all parents on behalf of Whitson's (Culinary Group)," Principal Andrew Boles said. "This sort of situation should never happen in any school nor here at the Attleboro Public Schools."
Usually, if parents owe money, they get a three-day grace period and a written warning.
Federal subsidies also require schools to provide at least a grilled cheese sandwich for kids who cannot pay.
Parents say kids weren't offered those options.
Boles says the food vendor, not the school, is at fault.
Whitson's Culinary Group did not respond to requests for comment.