Schools Putting Lunch Shame Stamps On Poor Kids
NEW YORK – Denying children a hot meal apparently isn’t a popular way for schools to deal with unpaid lunch money. A policy of not letting older students with unpaid meal charges take part in activities like dances and field trips was also recently scrapped, the district said. It’s difficult to gauge the prevalence among the nation’s thousands of schools. A majority of districts surveyed said they had unpaid meal charges, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the federal school lunch program. The laws’ supporters say students should never go hungry at school or be shamed with food. Cranston’s school district said it no longer serves alternative meals. The national school lunch program serves around 30 million children. In Warwick, the district said $12,000 of its $77,000 in unpaid charges is owed by children who qualified for free lunch, with charges incurred before their applications were approved. The School Nutrition Association, which represents cafeteria operators and suppliers, said providing free lunches for all students would end confusion about charges. The USDA report from a few years ago said lost revenue from unpaid meals tended to represent a tiny percentage of a school food program’s overall spending. Situations can vary, and the School Nutrition Association said unpaid charges are a widespread issue, with debt esca2lating in places that adopted anti-lunch shaming policies. Michael Crudale of Cranston Public Schools said simply getting a letter from a collection agency can sometimes get families to pay.
The number of school children who are at risk of getting lunch shamed is going down according to new information released by Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid. The advocacy group surveyed more than 300 schools this summer and found only about 13 percent offer an alternative meal when a child’s lunch money account is in the red and no schools refused to serve a student with lunch debt. 53 percent of schools offered an alternative meal and 15 percent refused any food to students who had negative accounts. In Minnesota, schools are not allowed to deny diplomas for outstanding lunch debt, and efforts to collect debt must not “Demean or stigmatize” a child. FOX 9 found Minneapolis Public Schools had $221,000 in unpaid lunch debt from last school year, followed by Anoka-Hennepin; $175,000 and St. Paul; $114,000. “At the end of the school year, schools are charged for the debt that is not able to be collected, goes back to school account and impacts school funding,” said Stacy Koppen who is in charge of nutrition services for St. Paul Schools. As a high school student, she was singled out when she could not afford lunch. “It’s enough to make you cry to think about the innocent children that are trying to learn, going to school,” she said. Hungry children are more likely to get poor grades, to be held back, or miss school entirely. Castile believes schools should offer free meals to all students. “Universal meals is a dream and vision I have for schools throughout the U.S.,” said Koppen. You should apply at your children’s schools or district offices.
Lawmakers unveil bill to ban school lunch shaming
A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to ban schools from publicly shaming students who can’t afford to pay for lunch. The legislation prohibits schools from singling out children who have outstanding school lunch balances or who were short on lunch money that day. The legislation would prohibit punishments like a wristband or hand stamp or forcing students to do extra chores. ADVERTISEMENT. “No student should be humiliated in front of their peers because their parents can’t afford to pay for a meal,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “It is shocking and shameful that this happens to hungry children, but nearly half of all school districts use some form of lunch shaming.” New Mexico recently became the first state to outlaw school lunch shaming. The legislation aims to streamline the process for applying for free and reduced lunch by making clear that Congress expects schools to give applications to families in need, coordinate with other programs to ensure that homeless and foster children are enrolled for free meals and set up online systems to make paying for meals easier for parents. “Children who have no ability to pay their debts shouldn’t be shamed, punished at school or even go hungry because their parents can’t pay their school meal bills,” Udall said in a statement. “Shaming students or requiring extra chores from kids who need help paying for lunch is inexcusable – not only does it stigmatize our most vulnerable children, it takes away from time they can be spending on schoolwork or with their peers.”
New Jersey Students Urging Governor To End Lunch Shaming, Help Children Without Enough Money For Food – CBS New York
FREEHOLD, N.J. – Some New Jersey students want to put an end to shaming classmates because they don’t have enough money for school lunch. The determined students are part of an organization called Rays of Hope and they’ve even asked Gov. Murphy to get involved. “In middle school, we don’t have jobs, there’s nothing that we can really do to help provide for that bill,” students told CBS2’s Charlie Cooper. They’re a group of students hungry to protect their underprivileged peers. “Children no matter what income their parents have should be able to have free lunch,” Jayla George said. “They say you can’t buy lunch today because you don’t have any money in your account or they say out loud that your account is low on balance,” Zachary Diaz added. These kids, part of the Rays of Hope youth organization, are fighting against lunch shaming where kids are given alternate cold lunches or get called out publicly for having insufficient funds in their school lunch accounts. “This is where we’re learning, we can’t go without eating,” student Alina de Zoyas said. “It’s just a tactic to embarrass the kid until their parent pays their lunch bill,” Diaz said. Many New Jersey school districts have a policy that allows administrators to call social services and check on kids whose parents owe money. These students created a petition and wrote letters to Gov. Murphy to put an end to lunch shaming. The students say the governor’s office confirmed that it received the letters, but still hasn’t agreed to a meeting with them.
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