Federal CEP program means no lunch shaming at IPS
When school lunch goes unpaid
New Mexico is first state to ban lunch shaming policies, similar bills pending in California and Texas. It refers to cafeteria policies advocates say punish students who are unable to pay for their meal, such as by taking the lunch away, or having them stand in a separate line from their peers for different food. In April, New Mexico became the first state to ban such policies, including throwing meals in the trash after they’ve been served or requiring students to do school chores or other work to pay off their debt. More than $7,000 was donated to Palm Beach County schools to chip away at the lunch debt among the district’s students, according to the PalmBeachPost.com. It helped more than 700 students out of debt, but more than 9,000 students remain in debt.
Many districts continue to serve students who can’t pay while the charges add up. The question is how to recoup that debt from parents without punishing students. This school year, Canon-McMillan began sending weekly notices to parents reminding them of their debt. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which reimburses schools for free or reduced-price meals, will require all schools participating in the program to adopt a policy on how handle the issue of unpaid meals by July 1, 2017.
It also recommends school officials communicate discretely with families to work out a payment plan and adopt payment methods that make it easier for parents to keep up with accounts. A 2016 School Nutrition Association survey found 82 percent of districts offered parents online payment options, while 62 percent notify families of low account balances through automated phone calls, texts or emails. As for what not to do, the USDA discourages practices that single out students who owe money, such as requiring they use a different serving line in the cafeteria or using hand stamps, stickers or other physical markers.
Governor Signs Legislation to Prevent School Lunch Shaming
SACRAMENTO – Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, announced today that Gov. Jerry Brown has signed his legislation to stop schools from publicly shaming or embarrassing students by either denying them lunch or providing a snack instead because their parents haven’t paid lunch fees. SB 250 ensures that school officials do not delay or deny food to hungry students as punishment for unpaid school meal fees, and it directs schools to establish a process for notifying their families about unpaid fees and collecting them. The legislation, which drew national media attention, won overwhelming bipartisan support.
The Assembly approved SB 250 on a 77-0 vote, and the Senate approved it 40-0. Students have a harder time focusing and learning when they are hungry, and 23 percent of California children come from families living below the federal poverty line. In recent years, the practice of school lunch shaming has come to light. In some school cafeterias, students who haven’t paid lunch fees are directed out of lunch lines and instead given bread and cheese, or their lunches are simply dumped into the garbage while peers look on. SB 250 forbids this practice and requires schools to make meals available to needy kids, even if their fees have not been paid.
Instead, schools must recognize that meal costs are the obligation of the parents, not the children. For families that cannot afford the meal fees, the bill directs schools to find a way to certify students for free or reduced-price meals or to reimburse them for the fees. Schools must notify guardians when unpaid lunch fees exceed the amount for 10 full-priced lunches. After serving in the Assembly from 1996-2002, including two years as Speaker, Hertzberg invested in solar, wind and electric-car projects; and worked for structural changes in government through the Think Long Committee of California.
Law Seeks to Ban School Lunch Shaming
Lunch shaming is real, and can be both damaging to kids and indicative of how this country-casually, cruelly, without thought-treats those in need. Lunch shaming is the general term for the ways in which a child can be made to feel embarrassed for being unable to pay for lunch. When a child is unable to pay for lunch-usually he or she owes some money from previous lunches-states have various methods to address the problem. Many of those methods aren’t geared at all towards making sure kids have enough to eat; instead, they’re sometimes cruel, humiliating practices, like throwing food in the garbage, forcing kids to clean tables in front of their classmates, or making kids wear some kind of symbol alerting everyone that they are having trouble paying for food. If students can’t pay for their lunches, reports the New York Times.
The school has to chase down outstanding bills, or find the money elsewhere, and given how underfunded public schools can be, that’s no easy task. In 2017, New Mexico legislators created an anti-lunch-shaming bill, which is the basis for the new proposed federal law. It bans a few specific things: making a child wear a wristband, taking away a child’s hot lunch after it’s been served, and forcing children to perform chores. That section includes a theoretical but not real ban of one of the most common forms of lunch shaming: giving a kid a cold cheese sandwich instead of the hot meal everyone else gets. According to Civil Eats, having that section be non-binding was the only way to get bipartisan support.
Until schools don’t have to worry about debts from school lunches, until schools are properly funded and all kids in public schools can receive lunch regardless of financial situation, this sort of problem will keep happening. This is a first step, but it addresses some of the symptoms, not the cause.