Pa. Officials Introduce Legislation To End Lunch Shaming
SC bill aimed at preventing lunch shaming of students advances in House
COLUMBIA – Legislation aimed at ensuring poor students aren’t shamed by getting a different lunch at school advanced unanimously in the South Carolina House. The bill sent to the House floor March 16 would bar schools from treating students who haven’t paid differently once the federal government stops covering all students’ meals amid the pandemic. Some schools have given an alternate meal, such as a peanut butter sandwich and an apple, after a student didn’t pay for a week or two. At least one school district turned over school lunch debt to a collection agency, Rep. Raye Felder, R-Fort Mill, told the House Education Committee before the 18-0 vote. The measure also prevents schools from punishing students with a lunch debt by not allowing them to participate in field trips, graduation ceremonies or other activities. Smith, a past chairman of the Lowcountry Food Bank, stressed he’s aware students can’t pay attention and learn when their bellies are empty and said no child should go without a meal. In response, Felder said it’s possible some crafty students could pocket the money instead of paying for lunch. The bill was initially filed in December 2018 after its sponsor, Rep. John King, said he heard of students not only “Food shamed” but bullied because of their obvious inability to pay. The bill applies to the meals schools serve that are federally reimbursable, not the food or beverages some schools offer for sale separately. The measure specifies students can’t accrue a debt for those items, which instead must be bought with cash or by drawing down a prepaid balance. Since schools were forced to close last March, tens of millions of meals have been provided to students statewide through pickup arrangements at schools and delivered by bus to communities lacking transportation. The federal government’s waiver allowing all students access to free school meals, regardless of their income, was recently extended through Sept. 30, to ensure students continue receiving a nutritious meal through the summer.
‘Lunch Shaming’ Is Now Against The Law In California
Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 265 into law, ensuring that, regardless of having unpaid meal fees, every student in California can receive a meal without being shamed or treated differently because of it. Examples of “Lunch shaming” have included calling out students by name publicly, forcing a student to return a meal, making students stay behind during recess to “Work” off the debt, and other similar actions. California is only the latest state in the nation to take action. “Lunch shaming” has received attention nationwide, with states acting on either reducing or, as in California’s case, eliminating the action from public schools. The bill was introduced by Senator Robert Hertzberg earlier this year, as he has been a proponent of free or reduced price school lunches for years, and has spoken out against “Lunch shaming” policies in the past. SB 265 wasn’t gaining much attention until June when a 9-year-old Napa student named Ryan Kyote personally paid off the school lunch debt of several students, amounting to nearly $80. This garnered nationwide attention. Governor Newsom personally met with Kyote in August and announced his support of the bill. The bill quickly passed the Assembly and the Senate with full bipartisan support, and then was signed by the Governor, who was still giving Kyote as a key reason in his decision. “Creating a ‘California for All’ means ensuring schools are inclusive, accepting, and welcoming of all kids. These bills help move us closer to that goal,” stated Governor Newsom after the signing. When parents can’t afford to buy their kids the typical school lunch, students are sometimes denied food or given a different, cheaper alternative. Lunch shaming is very real and has serious consequences for the well-being of our kids. Senator Hertzberg also responded positively to his bill passing, saying “Thank you Governor Newsom for signing my bill, SB 265, which will end the practice of school lunch shaming once and for all in California!”.
Whitmer seeks an end to lunch shaming in Michigan schools with plan to pay off debt
The stories pop up regularly across the nation: A student is denied lunch, or forced to eat a peanut butter sandwich, because of an unpaid school lunch debt. She’s proposed creating a $1 million fund in Michigan that will pay off the lunch debt of students whose parents haven’t paid their bills. The proposal would also bar schools that receive money from this fund from stigmatizing students who have lunch debt. It’s a small part of her education budget proposal, but it could go a long way toward ending what many describe as lunch shaming, as schools get tougher on students who have debt. Lunch shaming is getting greater scrutiny as stories about students who’ve been shamed, like an Alabama boy whose arm was stamped with the words, “I need lunch money,” gain widespread attention. State Sen. Jim Ananich, who introduced a bill in December called the Hunger-Free Student Bill of Rights, told the Associated Press that some schools require students to wear a wristband, perform tasks on behalf of the school, or accept a substandard meal if they can’t pay for their lunch. Just this week, an 8-year-old boy from Washington state made national news for raising more than $4,000 to pay off the lunch debt for students at his school and six other schools, according to CNN. The boy raised the money by selling keychains he had made. In October, MLive reported that several Applebee’s restaurants were holding fundraisers to donate a portion of their sales to pay off lunch debt. Whitmer’s proposal would allow schools that forgive student lunch debt to be reimbursed through the $1 million fund. Requiring students who can’t pay for a school meal or who owe a meal debt to wear a wristband or handstamp. Requiring students who can’t pay for a school meal or who owe a student meal debt to perform work to pay for meals. Requiring a student to dispose of a meal after it has been served because the student is unable to pay for the meal or owes a meal debt.