Cafeteria Worker Quits Over 'Lunch Shaming' Policy
House passes Peterson legislation to ban lunch shaming – Washington State House Democrats
OLYMPIA-Yesterday, the House of Representatives approved legislation to ban school lunch shaming and ensure access to healthy meals for Washington’s students. House Bill 2610, also known as the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights, passed the House on a vote of 59-39. Lunch shaming occurs when students are singled out in the cafeteria for not being able to pay for their meal or having an outstanding meal debt. This includes students receiving a cheap alternative meal with no nutritional requirements, sometimes in a paper bag distinguishing it from the meals served to other students. There are also reports of students having their meals taken away and thrown out when it is discovered they cannot pay or being sent home with conspicuous debt reminders, such as hand stamps.
In addition to prohibiting lunch shaming, the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights requires schools to provide healthy, balanced meals to students, regardless of their ability to pay. School districts are also instructed to communicate directly with parents or guardians about school meal debt, rather than putting the responsibility on the child. The bill also calls for school districts to work with parents to ensure eligible students are enrolled in the free and reduced price meal programs. It also requires that schools and school districts improve their systems to identify homeless students, students in foster care, runaway students, and migrant students to ensure they have proper access to free school meals. House Bill 2610 now heads to the Senate for further consideration.
School Accused of ‘Lunch-Shaming’ 6-Year-Old With Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
Anya Howard, 6, had loaded up her tray with a hot meal in the cafeteria, at the Southwest Elementary School in Greenwood, only to be told to put it back when staff found she had only $0.10 on her account, according to News 8. Howard said that the school failed to alert the family that her account had dropped to almost nothing. Elementary school students are allowed to charge two hot meals when their credit runs out, before they are given an alternate meal. A school note obtained by News 8, stated: that from May 13 accounts would not be allowed to go into the negative. A school board in Rhode Island sparked a similar debate when it announced last month that children on free school lunches would be given a sunflower butter and jelly sandwich instead of a hot meal if they owe money on the account for extras.
Students who qualify for free meals can still run up a debt by adding extras to their lunch trays, such as milk, which are not included in the free lunch, according to parents who commented on Facebook. Warwick is the second largest city in the state, with a population of just over 80,000. All public schools in Rhode Island are mandated by state law to provide lunches, and nearly 70 percent of those meals are served for free or at a reduced price. Some parents have since set up an online fundraiser to cover the outstanding debts.
“Lunch shaming” ban puts North Thurston Schools $21,000 in debt
A bill aimed at stopping school lunch shaming is now putting districts across the state thousands of dollars in debt. North Thurston Public Schools said its lunch debt hit $21,000 last week. The district started the school year $4,500 in debt. Every school day, North Thurston officials serve about 10,000 meals. School officials said the bill has good intentions, but it’s putting districts in a bind.
In North Thurston, 38 percent, or about 5,700 students, use the free and reduced priced lunch program, which is covered by state funds. It didn’t come with funding and many students racking up debt aren’t enrolled in the free and reduced priced lunch program, which means parents need to pay the district back. Neal said they have been calling, emailing and sending families letters to let them know lunch money is past due. North Thurston Public Schools said parents who have children who qualify for free and reduced priced lunches need to make sure they fill out an application for the 2018-2019 school year. Some kids who are eligible, but aren’t enrolled, are adding to school costs the state would otherwise cover.
To help address the issue of lunch debt, last year the school district created a Compassion Lunch Fund to help pay families in need pay for lunches. Donations are accepted through the school district’s website.
Warwick schools deny donation from business owner to pay off school lunch debt
In March 2018, the owner of Gel’s Kitchen Angelica Penta started a money jar to help students who struggle to afford lunch. She said West Warwick Public Schools accepted a check of $4,000 from her which will be applied at the end of the year, but Warwick Public Schools would not accept her donation. Penta said she met with Warwick school officials twice to discuss alternative uses for the money that were related to the same cause, but they wouldn’t budge. Warwick schools said the policy in place right now is that if a student cannot afford lunch, a sunbutter and jelly sandwich will be given as a lunch choice until the balance is paid in full or a payment plan is set up. Warwick Public Schools said officials suggested Penta create a program which would decide which students were eligible to have their account reduced or expunged, but Penta did not like that idea.
Penta said in her post that she plans to expand her donation program to other cities and towns in Rhode Island, but right now she is working with West Warwick and Warwick only since that is where the donation jars are located. She said in the meantime, anyone who needs help affording lunch in Warwick should contact her. A GoFundMe page was created to raise money to pay off the school lunch debt.