Social media shaming? Mom makes children walk to school
Texas’ ‘Lunch Shaming’ Problem and the Fight to Fix It
On a Wednesday morning in February 2016, Kelvin Holt, an Army veteran and then-substitute teacher, led a group of about 20 pre-kindergarten students into a Central Texas school cafeteria. If the debt remains, schools typically give the child an “Alternative meal,” such as a cheese sandwich with juice, or nothing at all. The vast majority of districts had uncollected debt at the end of last school year, and often schools must dip into other revenue to cover those costs, according to the New York Times. “In a nutshell, Texas schoolchildren are poor and they struggle, which is why the lunch program in schools is so important and why it’s so important to end lunch shaming,” Cole told the Observer. In February, the 13-term lawmaker and chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus filed House Bill 2159. The legislation would prohibit schools from publicly identifying students with negative balances. Giddings’ bill passed unanimously out of committee and was sitting comfortably on the Local and Consent Calendar, a fast-track for uncontroversial bills. Representative Diego Bernal, a San Antonio Democrat who said he was inspired by Giddings’ speech, was already carrying a bill. To let schools stock on-site food banks with healthy food that would otherwise go to waste. Within two days of the speech, Bernal added the entirety of Giddings’ bill on to both his House version and the Senate companion. There are now three bills that contain the entirety of Giddings’ legislation – House Bill 367., Senate Bill 725. She’s “Very optimistic” a reincarnated version of her legislation will pass before the session concludes May 29, adding that her staff “Isn’t going to stop there.” She said her office is looking to establish a private-sector initiative, whereby donors would help school districts recoup unpaid meal debts.
Free lunch for all ends lunch shaming at one Indiana school district
Wayne Township schools started offering free lunch to all students regardless of a family’s income or needs during the 2015-2016 school year at 12 of its schools. INDIANAPOLIS – Just weeks into the new school year, an old problem is popping up: lunch shaming. As a growing number of families struggle to make ends meet, many don’t have enough for a child’s school lunch. In Indiana, Wayne Township schools started offering free lunch to all students regardless of a family’s income or needs during the 2015-2016 school year at 12 of its schools. “Bad experience in school leads to not liking school, not wanting to do well in school, not belonging, not fitting in. If you think of something negative that happened at your elementary school and we all can, you carry that. If we can at least alleviate some of that for a child and make sure learning is able to happen, I don’t know why we wouldn’t do it.” The program has expanded for the 2019-2020 school year to the remaining six schools in the district. “If you have a negative self image or feel poorly about yourself for the 15-20 minutes that you’re in a cafeteria, that’s going to carry over throughout the rest of the day, so we’re seeing a positive impact not only with the school lunch program but with how that affects kids, and it goes throughout the rest of their learning experience” Principal Ben Markley said. Last year, his school had about $800 in outstanding student lunch debt that family’s couldn’t pay. School lunch in Wayne Township for a student would normally cost $2 a day. For all 180 school days, that comes out to $360 a year per student. The district pays 14 percent of that, or $856,800, because 86 percent of students in the district qualify for free or reduced lunch. Teachers often eat lunch at school and must pay for their meal.
The war on lunch shaming: Policymakers work to protect kids from stigma
When Jennifer Ramo became executive director of the legal nonprofit New Mexico Appleseed in 2009, the Albuquerque Public Schools were making national news for serving cold cheese sandwiches instead of hot meals to kids whose parents were behind on their lunch tab. Now, after passing the first anti-lunch-shaming law in the country, the state is a national model for school lunch policy. “But the lunch shaming still continued.” Many students began to rack up lunch debt and were confronted in egregious ways. It was a common story across the country: Children unable to pay for their lunch had hot meals thrown in the trash, were denied food, had their hands stamped with “I need lunch money,” and were required to complete chores to settle their debts. After public outcry and efforts by advocates and legislators, a number of states are waging a war against lunch shaming, rethinking mealtime policies for low-income students. Legislatures across the country, along with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the National School Lunch Program, are taking a stand to implement safeguards to protect needy students from lunch shaming. In September, New York City officials announced that all 1.1 million public school students will receive a free daily lunch. Among other states, Texas and California have passed laws sparked by lunch shaming. Squeezed budgets nonetheless put pressure on schools to collect lunch money. About three-quarters of school districts have unpaid school lunch debt, and it’s trending upward. While the poorest districts can avoid lunch shaming through Community Eligibility Provision programs that feed schools cash-free, outside those districts “There’s a lot of kids who are above the poverty line, but they’re still incredibly poor,” Ramo says.