automatic News for 06-27-2019

Ep. 68 – Fining Parents Of School Bullies & “Free” Meals For All

Should Schools be Prohibited From ‘Lunch Shaming’ Children Unable to Pay for a Meal?

Prohibit schools from publicly identifying or otherwise stigmatizing children participating in the National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program who either don’t have funds to pay for a meal or have an outstanding credit from a school food authority. This bill would also express the sense of Congress that schools should be provided with lunch or breakfast at school regardless of their ability to pay, those who can’t pay shouldn’t be provided an alternate meal, and schools should explore innovative ways to improve communications and payments with parents. Coordinate with school food authorities and local education agency liaisons to ensure that homeless children and youth are eligible to receive a free or reduced price lunch;. Children who would otherwise be lunch shamed; parents; school administrators and teachers. It is shocking and shameful that this happens to hungry children, but nearly half of all school districts use some form of lunch shaming. 

This important bill ensures that children receive the vital nutrition they need to focus in school through the national school lunch program. Of Agriculture regulations, requires school districts to seek payment for unpaid school lunch balances. The School Nutrition Association’s Diane Pratt-Heavne notes that after new guidelines requiring districts to address this issue were issued before the 2017-2018 school year, reports of school lunch shaming stories increased. The School Nutrition Association also notes, most districts avoid the practice of publicly identifying students with lunch debt in favor of using online payment programs, finding ways to contact parents about their debts other than through their children, or accepting charitable contributions. Warwick school officials told the Providence Journal the policy is needed because the district is owned tens of thousands of dollars in lunch money, and is also contending with a budget deficit in the millions. 

Karen Bachus, the Warwick School Committee’s chairwoman, says the district is owed over $40,000 in lunch money. In 2016, Stacy Koltiska, a Pennsylvania school lunch worker, quit in protest after she was forced to refuse a hot meal to a student because he couldn’t pay for it. 

Keywords: [“School”,”Lunch”,”children”]

Rep. Ilhan Omar announces bill to end student lunch debt shaming

Following stories that gained national attention about students being publicly shamed for having school lunch debt, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar said on Wednesday she wants to tackle the issue by introducing the No Shame Against Schools Act. Omar, who previously worked as a child nutrition outreach coordinator and a nutrition community outreach coordinator, announced her bill during a news conference which she said would prohibit any kind of identification like tokens or wristbands, publishing a list of children with outstanding debts, or using debt collectors to obtain school meal fees. It would also require schools to attempt to certify a child with unpaid meal fees and subsequently allow that school to receive retroactive reimbursement for that child’s meals for up to 90 days. Today I am holding a press conference to introduce the No Shame at School Act. 

The bill will prohibit schools from shaming children that are unable to pay for their school lunch. More than 75% of school districts reported having unpaid student meal debt at the end of the 2016-2017 school year, according to a 2018 report by the School Nutrition Association, which surveyed 1,550 districts nationwide. The median amount of total debt was $2,500, but the amounts ranged from less than $10 to more than $865,000, according to the report. Valerie Castile, mother of student cafeteria supervisor Philando Castile who in 2016 was fatally shot by a police officer in Minnesota, also spoke at the press conference. She highlighted the importance of continuing the legacy of her son by donating $8,000 to a Minnesota high school to settle school lunch debts. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture began requiring schools to implement policies to collect debt for unpaid meals at the start of the 2017-2018 school year. Although the USDA spends about $22 billion on child nutrition programs, it prohibits schools from allocating those funds to pay for the debt. Several states, including Pennsylvania, Washington, Oregon, Kansas and Colorado, have passed legislation preventing schools from shaming students who owe meal debt, which has caused many districts to struggle with escalating debt, according to SNA.. 

Keywords: [“school”,”debt”,”Shame”]

Well-intentioned ‘lunch shaming’ law undercuts Oregon school budgets

The lunch computer station at Edward Byrom Elementary in Tualatin tracks which students received a meal for later bookkeeping, but it gives no indication whether the student receives a reduced-price meal or owes money. The students eat, and the Tigard-Tualatin School District adults will figure out later which parents need to be nudged to pay for meals. The Oregon Association of School Business Officials has found that through December more than three dozen districts, representing about 175,000 students, had incurred $1.3 million in unpaid balances. The district’s unpaid student meal debt climbed from nearly zero to $45,000 for the 2017-18 school year and had reached $83,450 for this school year by the end of January, according to Chief Financial Officer David Moore. The law requires any school that participates in the federal National School Lunch or School Breakfast programs provide a meal to any student who asks; the school cannot ask the student for payment. 

OASBO President-elect Nathan Roedel, who is the Hillsboro School District’s nutrition director, said the loss of communication with students has hobbled districts. Often, families who aren’t paying lunch fees are also those who are not closely connected with the school, and students provide the only lines of communication. Hillsboro rolled about $30,000 in debt for current students into this school year, according to Roedel. The district typically ended the school year with about $1,000 in unpaid bills. Rieke-Smith would like to see some mechanism to compel at least a conversation with parents, similar to how districts address absenteeism, so that the school can connect with families and help them access support if necessary. 

Rep. Margaret Doherty, D-Tigard, has several bills addressing school meals, including House Bill 2759 and HB 2761 to reimburse schools for meals required by state law. The Confederation of Oregon School Administrators is seeking $2 million with the legislation to help cover lunch costs, according to Morgan Allen, deputy executive director of policy and advocacy. 

Keywords: [“School”,”student”,”meal”]

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