School districts take a stand against school lunch shaming
Lunch Shaming Banned in California Schools: Governor Outlaws Alternative Meals For Students with Food Debt
The governor of California has signed a bill looking to put an end to state schools giving “Alternative meals” to students who have unpaid lunch bills. Kyote spent close to $80 paying off the lunch debts of his third-grade classmates at West Park Elementary School in Napa. Newsom said in a media release this weekend that the young student’s actions demonstrated how “Kids at his school were shamed and singled out because of inadequate funds in their school lunch accounts.” He said the bill would mean all students receive a state reimbursable meal of their choice even if their parent or guardian accrues some unpaid meal fees. “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,” Gov. Newsom said in a release. Napa Valley Unified School District says online that students with a negative lunch account still receive a hot meal. It gained the attention of 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, who tweeted: “School lunch debt should not exist in the wealthiest country in the history of the world.” This amazing young man saved his allowance and used it to pay his classmates’ lunch debt. For Ryan, it was just wrong that some kids couldn’t afford to eat lunch. A February 2018 bulletin from the California Department of Education about the use of alternate meals and handling of unpaid bills conceded such meals were “Not clearly defined” by law. In May this year, a school district in Rhode Island was criticized after creating a policy that said any student with unpaid bills would be given cold sandwiches until lunch fees were paid. Online, parents complained it was a clear example of lunch shaming.
8th grader inspired by lunch shaming stories vows to eliminate $18,000 of one district’s lunch debt
A 14-year-old has pledged to eliminate the sizable lunch debt for a district of 129 schools in Texas. Ben Hofer, an eighth-grade student at St. Andrews Episcopal School, recently raised $8,000 for a project he’s dubbed, “LunchCounts!” He plans on putting the money towards nearly $18,000 of school lunch debt in the Austin Independent School District. Ben took an interest in school lunch debt and so-called “Lunch shaming” happening in some schools across the country. Lunch shaming includes serving cold food if a child’s lunch account has not been paid in full, or denying lunch to the child altogether. Ben said Austin ISD does not engage in lunch shaming, but the debt is a burden none the less. MORE: Mom starts campaign to pay off $232,000 in school lunch debt). “[Ben said] to me, ‘you know they were throwing food out in front of a kid if they cant afford it?'” his mom, Kelly Walton, told “GMA.” “He did interviews then with cafeteria budget workers and [learned] every kid gets a lunch, but they rack up debt.” Austin ISD said it will never deny kids of a full lunch. Tanner told “GMA” that 57 percent of the students in the district receive free meals as part of the national school lunch program – but not all students qualify if their family’s income does not meet the requirements for free and reduced price meals. When he first launched “LunchCounts!” Ben’s original goal was to raise $3,200 to pay off the lunch debts at three school – Blazier Elementary School, Paredes Middle School and Akins High School, since their campuses had the highest balances in the district. Ben has now raised nearly half of the district’s overall lunch debt. He hopes to continue paying off the lunch debt every year.
New laws aim to end ‘lunch shaming’ for students without lunch money
In the past few years, you may have heard the term “Lunch shaming” being thrown around. It’s basically the practice of penalizing students who don’t have money to pay for their school lunch. Lunch shaming has been the focus of recent news stories about cafeteria workers who have either quit their jobs because they refused to deny students hot lunches or were fired for giving free food to students who couldn’t pay. Protocol for what schools do in these situations range from giving out alternate lunches, like cheese sandwiches, to having students do chores, denying students food or taking and throwing away food they’ve already been served. The department discourages practices like alternate lunches and taking away food. Some state lawmakers want to take it a step further by eliminating so-called lunch shaming altogether. The legislation was introduced by Democratic state Sen. Michael Padilla, who says as a child he mopped the cafeteria floors to earn his school lunch. It’s very obvious who the poor kids are in the school. Students in circumstances like his often have to watch as other children get served a hot lunch, while they are given a piece of bread – with maybe a little bit of cheese. You’ve got kids today who go to school and they get their hot lunches taken away from them because their parents haven’t paid the bill, and they get replaced – here in Los Angeles where I’m from – with half a sandwich and four ounces of juice. According to the School Nutrition Association, roughly 75% of school districts had uncollected debt at the end of last school year. Mostly, school nutrition directors are trying to balance their budgets and they see this is a necessary but effective evil.