USDA Introduces new School Lunch Standards
Could ‘lunch shaming’ return to Lancaster County? Revised school code could allow it, critics say
Pennsylvania has potentially invited “Lunch shaming” back into schools, critics say. A provision in the school code passed with the state budget last week allows schools to serve students alternative meals if they have an unpaid balance of $50 or more. Lawmakers agreed to the rule despite banning “Lunch shaming” – or calling attention to students whose families don’t keep up with meal purchases by serving them an alternative meal or denying them food altogether – in 2017. While the new law states serving some students a different meal isn’t considered stigmatizing, many Lancaster County school officials expressed disagreement. Although he appreciates what lawmakers are trying to accomplish by reducing students’ outstanding meal debt, Bromirski said he doesn’t expect Hempfield to return to that practice. Other Lancaster County schools also offered alternative meals in the past. At Ephrata Area elementary schools, for example, children who didn’t have money for lunch could eat only a salad. Six school districts – Lampeter-Strasburg, Manheim Central, Manheim Township, Octorara Area, Penn Manor and Warwick – did not have such policies. Other districts, such as Pequea Valley, have yet to make a decision about serving alternative meals. “My personal impression is that it will help reinforce families paying their meal debt.” LNP in June reported that meal debt has skyrocketed since state lawmakers passed the “Lunch shaming” bill in 2017. Districts were left with $118,501 in meal debt following the most recent school year, compared to $16,180 after the 2016-17 school year. Other notable changes in the school code include forming a commission to study special education funding; extending the moratorium for the commonwealth’s reimbursement program for school districts with construction projects through 2019-20; and changing the compulsory school age from 8 to 17 years old to 6 to 18 years old.
Tennessee lawmakers advance bill to prevent ‘lunch shaming’ students
Schools would be banned from “Lunch shaming” students unable to afford school meals, under a bill that was narrowly advanced by a Tennessee House panel on Wednesday. The proposal, sponsored by Democratic Rep. John Ray Clemmons, would ban schools from requiring students with lunch debt to do chores, miss school activities, graduations or other activities that would publicly identify the student as being unable to pay for a meal. Schools would also have to assist parents and guardians to obtain free or reduced-price meals for their students and offer to find any other available assistance. Embarrassing tactics have included serving cheap sandwiches in place of hot meals or sending students home with conspicuous debt reminders, such as hand stamps. New Mexico passed a law against lunch shaming in 2017, and several other states, including California, Iowa and Oregon, have followed suit. Before the bill advanced on Wednesday, Republican Rep. John Ragan attempted to dramatically rewrite the proposal with an amendment. The Oak Ridge lawmaker’s amendment would require the state to provide “Lunch at no cost to the student or the student’s parent.” The amendment carried a $341 million price tag, which other lawmakers pointed out would effectively torpedo the legislation because it’s not currently budgeted in the governor’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year. Free and reduced-price meals funded by the Agriculture Department’s National School Lunch Program shield the nation’s poorest children from so-called lunch shaming. The national school lunch program serves about 30 million children. Roughly 20 million of those students qualify for free lunches, and 2 million qualify for a reduced-price lunch of 40 cents. That means about 8 million pay the regular price determined by local districts, leaving students with unpaid meal debt open to possible lunch shaming.
Louisiana United Methodist Children & Family Services
Threatening parents with foster care of their child to correct a school lunch debt must set the record for the most despicable form of lunch shaming. Lunch shaming happens when a school treats children differently if they do not have money for school lunches. “On Thursday, Pedri and Joanne Van Saun, director of the county’s Children and Youth Services agency, sent the district a letter of their own ordering school officials to”immediately cease and desist” advising families that failure to pay lunch bills could land their children in foster care. “The Luzerne County Children and Youth Foster Care System is NOT utilized to scare families into paying school lunch bills.” Worse than in Pennsylvania, lunch shaming is legal in Louisiana. Lunch shaming is legal in Louisiana in spite of efforts by some of our legislators to end it. In 2018, Louisiana’s Senate Education Committee voted 4-2 against a bill that would prohibit Louisiana public schools from shaming students because they have unpaid lunch debts. Rep. Smith’s bill would have prevented school personnel from scolding children with lunch debts. The Senate Education Committee voted against the bill which would have prohibited lunch shaming in Louisiana. Perhaps to save face, the Louisiana Senate quickly passed Senate Resolution 154 which “Requests the state Department of Education to create a committee to study and develop mechanisms and processes whereby every student is served a meal at school, regardless of ability to pay.” Notice, it’s a request and not a requirement. Until the Louisiana Legislature passes legislation which prohibits lunch shaming, children are ready targets for school administrators and cafeteria personnel seeking payment for school lunch debt. Legislation prohibiting lunch shaming of children does not grant an automatic pass for the parents.
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