5/17: Education blogger Erika Sanzi talks lunch shaming, evergreen contracts on State of Mind
Presidential Candidates Seize on Viral ‘Lunch Shaming’ Stories
Education policy wonks often complain that schools don’t get enough discussion in presidential campaigns. So it’s unusual that some of the Democrats seeking their party’s 2020 nomination are focused on something even more specific-school lunch. Several candidates have shared viral stories about “Lunch shaming,” the practice of refusing to provide a student with a hot school lunch because of unpaid meal debt. Most recently, they tweeted a story about a 9-year-old boy who paid off his classmates’ overdrawn lunch balances with allowance money he’d saved up. Some used their tweets to generally lament child poverty and hunger, and some called for unspecified reforms to school meal programs, even if they haven’t yet added such proposals to their policy platforms. What those tweets didn’t acknowledge was that many schools and districts already offer universal free meals, that a majority of students who eat school lunches qualify for free meals, and that school cafeteria workers say it’s not always poverty that leads to unpaid meal accounts. I dug into those issues in this quick school lunch debt explainer. The policy responses to poverty are often complicated and nuanced-like changes to the way low-income housing vouchers are distributed, how school funding is allotted, and the way poverty itself is measured. Ryan is so thoughtful and generous – but let this be a reminder to us all: we must reform our school lunch programs. “School lunch debt” should not exist in the wealthiest country in the history of the world. 30 million students participate in the National School Lunch Program – instead of shaming our children for their lunch debts, we need to tackle the problem of food insecurity in America. Bonnie gave a free lunch to a student who couldn’t afford it…and was fired for it.
Lawmaker aims to stop ‘lunch shaming’ in Michigan schools
Two years ago, Harmony Lloyd’s son came home from school and insisted she make sure there was money in his lunch account. She started doing her own research and brought the issue up with her son’s school district, Grand Blanc Community Schools. While her district ultimately amended its school lunch policies, Lloyd said she wants to make sure other students around the state don’t experience similar incidents that could shame them or cause them to go hungry. The incident Lloyd’s son witnessed inspired an ongoing effort in the Michigan legislature that would prevent school officials from addressing school lunch debt directly with a student unless necessary. Sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, Senate Bill 668 would require schools to provide a USDA-reimbursable meal to students with lunch debt unless they have written permission from the parents not to do so. If passed, the bill would also explicitly authorize school districts to accept philanthropic donations for paying off school lunch debt. Some Michigan residents have previously launched fundraising campaigns to pay for outstanding lunch debt in their communities. Ananich, a former teacher, said in a statement students shouldn’t have to go hungry or be shamed for not having enough money in their lunch account. “For some kids, lunch is the only certain meal of the day,” he said. “No child should go hungry at school, and my goal is to equip school districts with better options for dealing with lunch debt.” Ananich said providing USDA-reimbursable meals and accepting philanthropic donations could help school districts shoulder school lunch debt without students feeling the effects. “Let’s agree to make sure kids are fed first, and let the schools and parents work out the details later,” he said.
Lawmaker’s Childhood Experience Drives New Mexico’s ‘Lunch Shaming’ Ban
Lawmaker’s Childhood Experience Drives New Mexico’s ‘Lunch Shaming’ Ban : The Salt New Mexico has made it illegal to stigmatize students who cannot pay for their lunches. State Sen. Michael Padilla, who introduced the bill, says he had to mop cafeteria floors as a foster child. April 11, 2017.4:25 AM ET. When New Mexico state Sen. Michael Padilla was a child, he says he mopped the cafeteria floors to earn his school lunch, and he befriended the cafeteria workers so he wouldn’t have to go hungry. “I grew up in foster homes, multiple foster homes,” the Democratic lawmaker tells NPR’s Rachel Martin. “It’s very obvious who the poor kids are in the school.” He says students in circumstances like his often have to watch as other children get served a hot lunch, while they are given a piece of bread – with “Maybe a little bit of cheese.” New legislation that he introduced, which was signed last week by Gov. Susana Martinez, aims to make the stigma he experienced a thing of the past in New Mexico. The Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights Act requires that all students have access to the same lunch and ends practices like trashing lunches that have been served to students who can’t pay, or making students do chores to work off debt. The law also mandates that schools assist students in signing up for free and reduced-price lunches. Padilla says the law is the first of its kind in the United States, but he has heard of lunch shaming happening “Across the country.” A worker at a Pennsylvania school quit last year after she said she had to take away hot meals from two students. Padilla says he has already heard from legislators in other states who would like to use his bill as model legislation.