automatic News for 05-30-2019

Concern over 'lunch shaming' in Arizona schools

Officials: Don’t lunch-shame low-income Minnesota students

Reports that school cafeteria workers are taking lunches from kids who can’t afford them has some children’s advocates calling for change. Jill Haggerty, a mother in Stewartville in southeastern Minnesota, said her kids in middle and high school reported seeing lunches taken from classmates and the food dumped in metal buckets in front of them earlier this month. Haggerty said she got similar reports multiple times, and that a school food service worker confirmed the practice when she called. School district officials in Stewartville declined to answer questions about the practice, but did issue a statement. Selfors also said the district was working with food service management and their staff to make sure all kids get lunch. 

The district uses an outside contractor, Minnetonka-based Taher, as their food service vendor. The district told KTTC-TV families owed about $10,000 for lunches. The state Legislature passed a law in 2014 addressing school lunch debts, directing schools not to take public action against students from families who couldn’t pay for their lunches. Jessica Webster, a lawyer with the Legal Services Advocacy Project, said she believes some school districts have maintained the practice. Reducing lunch service, taking food or marking kids who can’t pay is more likely to result in students staying away from lunch than their families paying up, she added. 

Colleen Moriarty, executive director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota said her organization’s food help line is still getting calls from kids from families that can’t pay for their lunches despite expanded free and reduced lunch programs. Such reports are frustrating when many school districts have millions of dollars in general education reserves, and could pay the lunch debts, said Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. 

Keywords: [“lunch”,”school”,”kids”]

Three ways you can fight school lunch shaming

Lunch shaming – when a child is punished for not having enough money to buy a meal at school – needs to end. Imagine a little kid at school, in line for his daily lunch. He might not have eaten yet today, he might not have even had anything since he left school the day before. Throughout the country, school districts have engaged in this kind of punishment for unpaid school meals – ranging from stamping children’s hands to making students do chores to earn their meals to throwing the uneaten food in the trash. Last spring, the United States Department of Agriculture announced that schools across the country are now required to develop policies regarding practices for handling debt from unpaid school meals, drawing attention to a long-standing issue. 

Millions of kids rely on school meals for the nutrition they need to get through the day. Ask school districts to make their meal debt policies public. Schools have many different strategies for dealing with unpaid meal debt. Reaching out to your local school or district office and asking them to share their policies publicly – such as on the school’s website – can allow for transparency and important feedback from the community. Federal child nutrition programs including the National School Breakfast and National School Lunch Program are the most important ways to help millions of children across the United States facing hunger. 

By making these programs available to as many children in need as possible, schools can minimize the occurrence of unpaid meal debt and limit lunch shaming in the process. Talk to your school district about how they’re making sure parents know about the resources available for their children, and if there are ways they can do more as a school to ensure hungry children are being connected with critical federal programs. 

Keywords: [“school”,”meal”,”Lunch”]

He’s now a state senator, and the driving force behind New Mexico’s first-in-the-nation law to ban such practices. New Mexico Republican Gov. Susana Martinez signed Padilla’s Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights last week, making the state the first to outlaw lunch shaming. While the law doesn’t guarantee hot meals for every pupil, it prohibits school workers from publicly shaming them or forcing them to do chores for food. California currently has a proposal that would stop school children from being treated differently than their peers if their parents or guardians fail to pay meal fees. 

It also prohibits school employees from disciplining the child, or denying or delaying meals to them. Instead, it would be up to schools to put together a plan to recoup the money. A national survey of more than 1,000 school nutrition directors working in public school districts found nearly 71 percent of districts reported unpaid meal debt at the end of the 2012-2013 school year, according to The Atlantic. In Yonkers, N.Y., the tab for unpaid school meals for the 2015-2016 school year hit $809,000. In some cases, children in her district qualify for free or reduced lunch programs but their parents or guardians haven’t filled out the paperwork. 

As lawmakers debate changes, school workers who have tried to push back on such policies have been reprimanded or in some cases fired on the spot. In 2015, a Colorado cafeteria worker was fired after feeding a first-grader who could not afford to buy lunch. Last year, a cafeteria worker in Canonsburg, Pa., quit her job at Wylandville Elementary School after she was forced to take a hot lunch away from a student because the child’s parent had fallen more than $25 behind in paying for his school lunches. 

Keywords: [“school”,”Lunch”,”meal”]