School Lunch Shaming | TBRS
New Mexico Law Bans Schools From ‘Lunch Shaming’ Hungry Kids
New Mexico is the first state in the United States to make it expressly illegal to single out or humiliate a child who cannot pay for his or her lunch at school. The bill is aimed at ending the practice of “Lunch shaming.” It also outlines procedures for schools to collect debts and helps families in signing up for federal free or reduced-price meal assistance. Advocates for children say tactics that stigmatize students with lunch debts are disturbingly common. This includes throwing kids’ lunches away if they can’t pay; making students clean the cafeteria; or requiring that they wear stickers, stamps or wrist bands that indicate they can’t pay. “Children whose parents or caregivers owe money for school lunch will no longer have to miss meals or face public embarrassment in front of their peers,” Jennifer Ramo of New Mexico Appleseed, a group that works to fight poverty, said in a March statement supporting the bill. “No child should be forced to wipe down cafeteria tables or throw away a meal because of a debt.” In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a policy to give kids without lunch money cold cheese sandwiches and fruit partially backfired as some families began to see the sandwiches as punishment for being poor. Families whose received such a meal included those who were in the process of applying for free or reduced-price federal lunch assistance, The Denver Post reported in 2009. The Times points out that schools feel pressure to collect debts – which can run up to millions of dollars in some districts – because schools can’t use federal funds to offset the costs, meaning they have to find the money elsewhere. Even without added stigma, some students already feel ashamed of being hungry. Oregon teacher Gibson Howton, whose Facebook post about providing snacks to her students went viral last month, said that’s why she freely offers food to kids in her classroom. “Feeling hungry feels scary,” she told HuffPost in March.
Schools forced to address ‘lunch shaming’
Re said the alleged incident constituted “Lunch shaming,” a common practice by which schools single out students who can’t pay for lunch. A study by the Food and Nutrition Service with the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that, in the 2010-11 school year, 58 percent of schools surveyed incurred student meal debt. Now schools are facing a federal deadline to take action against lunch shaming. By July 1, all schools participating in the federal meals programs – which include more than 100,000 public and private schools – are required by the USDA to have written policies to inform parents of procedures regarding meal debt. Kirkwood as a school district also waits until three meals are charged before providing alternative meals, but spokeswoman Ginger Cayce said many schools chose to continue providing regular meals. Most Rockwood schools do not mention meal debt in their parent or student handbooks. The USDA and local school food officials offer a number of ways schools can collect meal debt while avoiding the stigmatization and embarrassment of students. The USDA emphasizes that schools should adopt policies “That will not negatively impact the children involved, but instead focus on the adults responsible for providing funds for meal purchases.” Some schools use alternative funding sources to resolve student meal debt. Parkway schools use money from parent teacher organizations and school emergency funds to pay off meal debt, spokeswoman Cathy Kelly said. Some high-poverty St. Louis-area schools evade the lunch shaming issue altogether by providing free lunch for all students through the federal Community Eligibility Provision. All students at those schools – including ones in St. Louis , University City, Riverview Gardens, Normandy and other regional districts, as well as some charter and private schools – receive a lunch, regardless of their parents’ financial situation.
Washington State Says “No” to Lunch Shaming in Schools
This bill was passed in response to reports that WA State students were singled out if their parent or guardian had fallen behind on paying the student’s meal bill. Known as “Lunch shaming,” the practice ranges from putting a wrist band or stamp on the child’s hand, to throwing away the hot meal that the child has been served and either replacing it with a cold meal, or in some cases not providing a meal at all. In a press release, Rep. Strom Peterson who sponsored the bill said, “Children should not go hungry or be humiliated because they cannot afford lunch that day This new law will help ensure that our school districts are not stigmatizing kids and that our state’s students are getting the nutrition they need to succeed in school.” Under this new bill, school districts must notify parents of a negative lunch balance within 10 days. Students can carry a note or letter to their parents, but any communication regarding delinquent funds cannot be directed to the student. As another requirement of the bill, schools must ensure that students and families are connected to available free and reduced priced lunch programs. Schools must now “Exhaust all options to directly certify the student for free or reduced-price meals.” Lunch shaming is a nation-wide issue, and many states are passing similar bills to prevent it. At the federal level, changes have been proposed to the 2019 House Appropriations Bill that would protect children from lunch shaming and leave them out of payment discussions entirely. Luckily for WSIPC school districts, our Purchasing Partner e-Funds for Schools provides a solution that empowers schools to reach out to parents without burdening children. E-Funds for Schools allows parents to choose to be notified whenever their student’s lunch balance reaches a low lunch balances, and to re-load the student’s balance in real-time via a mobile device or desktop.