automatic News for 05-26-2019

Does 'lunch shaming' happen in Spokane?

‘Anti-lunch shaming’ law comes with large price

A bill passed unanimously last summer with great intentions but tough consequences has hit the Hillsboro and Forest Grove school districts hard – so hard that local districts have found themselves dealing with an upwards of $22,000 in debt so far this year. It seems simple: Feed children equally, and don’t bring attention to students without money in their account by reminding them about it or making them bear an identifying mark of their situation. Reiter said at the end of last year, the Forest Grove School District had about $900 in lunch money debt. For Hillsboro, Roedel said the district went from $1,100 in lunch money debt at the end of last year to $22,000 so far this year, with a projected $40,000 by the end of the school year in June. The effect is straightforward: District staff are unable to ask students for their lunch money, remind them about the money they owe or ask them to remind their parents. 

Because staff aren’t able to ask or remind students to pay for their lunch or breakfast, Roedel and Reiter assume students often forget they have money in their backpack, or to ask their parents to provide it. In 1946, the free or reduced lunch program was created, part of the National School Lunch Act signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. For these schools, a large enough percentage of the students enrolled come from low-income families, which qualifies each student at the school for free meals. For Hillsboro, Roedel said they begin by sending automated calls home twice per week reminding parents that their child owes money. 

Reiter believes parents in the district are not aware of the severity of the debt, or what that might mean for the schools if the money is not paid back in time. General fund money is the money used for curriculum, instruction, teacher salaries and classroom materials, among others. That means, district officials said, that those areas of need will be squeezed if the majority of the lunch debt money isn’t collected. 

Keywords: [“money”,”District”,”school”]

Finding Solutions to ‘Lunch Shaming’

Kids go to school to learn, and research shows that access to nutritious school lunches improves students’ focus and ability to concentrate and perform effectively at school. Today, the National School Lunch Program, which operates in more than 100,000 schools nationwide, serves 30.4 million students each day. Of the five billion lunches served annually, 20.1 million are provided free of charge, two million are provided at reduced price to qualifying low-income families and 8.2 billion are provided at full price. The number of children receiving free or reduced-cost lunches has climbed steadily from 20 percent in 1970 to 45 percent in 1980, 57 percent in 2000 to more than 73 percent in 2016. While the cost of reduced and full-price lunches seems minimal, many families struggle to pay, as evidenced by the fact that more than 75 percent of U.S. 

school districts report having students with outstanding school lunch debt. In April, the School Nutrition Association distributed a press release addressing the lunch shaming controversy. The association noted that, in one respect, school lunch personnel’s hands are tied. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the school lunch program, mandated that beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, schools must attempt to collect unpaid meal debt. 

Thanks to recent publicity surrounding the humiliation and embarrassment of public lunch shaming, many schools are pursuing discreet ways to address school lunch debt. In April, New Mexico lawmakers made it illegal to shame children whose parents are behind on lunch payments. Cafeteria personnel in that city continue to provide the daily hot lunch to all children, but use outside third-party collections agencies or small claims court suits to address the nonpayment issue outside of school. Private donations, it seems, may end up playing a pivotal role in ending lunch shaming. 

Keywords: [“Lunch”,”school”,”students”]

Lunch-Shaming Schoolchildren: Yes, It’s An Actual Thing

Now, every kid expects a hot lunch at school, even the poor kids. These are all things that happen on a state by state basis as individual schools find ways of reconciling mounting meal plan delinquencies. Schools throughout the U.S. must contend with meal debt, and it is a real problem. According to the School Nutrition Association, more than three-quarters of school districts are grappling with uncollected debt. 

In June of 2016, with just days left in the school year, Jefferson County resident Jon Bivens neglected to reload the balance for his son’s cafeteria meal plan. One afternoon in the final week of school, his 8-year-old son committed the unspeakable act of buying himself some ice cream with his meal swipe card. The authorities at Gardendale Elementary School did the only logical thing in this situation. Schools may not offset their losses for meal plans using federal dollars. Either you think it’s worth the federal government’s time and money to ensure even cash-strapped students are eating lunch in school, or you feel so strongly that this is a waste of money that you’d sooner see hot meals in the trash than in students’ bellies. 

There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually helping results, helping kids do better in school the way we justified it was, these programs are going to help these kids do better in school and get better jobs. With all of that said, Mulvaney’s remarks suggest we are now consciously moving in the wrong direction, that student hunger is on the verge of growing, that schools are on the verge of massive federal funding cuts, that districts will continue to enjoy total freedom to enforce meal debt as they see fit, and that any number of these schools will appeal to lunch-shaming as at least one tactic through which to do so. If the goal of school is to teach children that it’s a harsh world out there and nobody cares whether you eat or starve, we’re on the right track. 

Keywords: [“school”,”meal”,”lunch”]

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