automatic News for 11-02-2019

Lunch Shaming

What happens when you ‘lunch shame’ a child?

A hungry child between the age of 6 and 12 is more likely to receive special education services, repeat a grade in school or receive mental health counseling, than a child who is not hungry, according to the American Psychological Association. School districts across the nation work to combat hunger with meal policies and by working with the United States Department of Agriculture to provide discounted and free lunch to students who qualify. A national survey of more than 1,000 school nutrition directors working in public school districts found nearly 71 percent of districts reported unpaid meal debt at the end of the 2012-13 school year, according to The Atlantic. School lunch debt ranged from $2 million to $4.7 million. Many districts opt to provide an alternative or ’emergency lunch’ that is less nutritious than a full hot lunch to students with lunch debt. 

Many schools use the ‘cheese sandwich’ meal as an alternative meal, where a child receives a cold cheese and bread sandwich instead of a hot meal. Lunch shaming can make a child feel insecure and affect how safe they feel in school. Davis Joint Unified School District makes sure students are lined up to receive their lunch in a way that is sensitive to potentially causing them emotional harm. If a parent fails to acknowledge their child’s needs, the school takes it up to administrators or the district because of the possibility of a child neglect case, Machi explained. School districts are not allowed to give free or discounted lunches to students who do not qualify but Machi said in rare and extreme cases the school can petition to override the rule and put a child on a free lunch program. 

In the Sacramento City Unified School District, about two-thirds of the students qualify for a free lunch by federal guidelines, according to SCUSD spokesperson Gabe Ross. The Elk Grove Unified School District’s alternative lunch consists of a cheese sandwich, fruit and either milk or juice, according to EGUSD spokesperson, Xanthi Pinkerton. 

Keywords: [“school”,”student”,”lunch”]

When You Can’t Afford School Lunch, the Toll Is More Than Just Physical

Imagine being eight years old and getting your first taste of student debt. This May, a Minnesota high school was accused of attempting to keep students from participating in graduation exercises if they owed lunch money. The state’s attorney general ultimately stepped in and declared that schools were prohibited from preventing eligible students from participating in graduation ceremonies due to unpaid meal debts. Just last month, Pennsylvania’s Wyoming West Valley school district came under fire after sending letters to parents of children who hadn’t paid their school lunch debt. The letter advised parents that they could be taken to court and have their children placed in foster care if the lunch debt wasn’t paid. 

In a note announcing the donation, the school district also apologized for the initial letter. Chobani paid $47,650 in outstanding lunch debt in Rhode Island, and in June, the company donated $85,000 to pay off lunch debts in Idaho. The shame, emotional stress, and poverty – not to mention hunger – experienced by these children can take a real toll on their academic performance and well-being, child-development experts told Teen Vogue. According to a 2018 survey of 1,550 school districts nationwide, 75.3% reported unpaid student meal debt at the end of 2016-2017 school year. The survey, conducted by the School Nutrition Association, found debt at one school as high as $865,000, with a median debt amount of $2,500 across all schools, ABC News reported. 

In 2017, the US Agriculture Department began requiring school districts to have policies concerning student lunch debt, but they didn’t specify how districts should recover debts. So some schools have continued using methods such as stamping children, threatening to have children put in foster care, and even using collection agencies. 

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

School lunch shaming will now be against the law in California

California just took a step toward making its school environments a little more inclusive. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a new piece of legislation that guarantees all students will receive lunch even if their parents or guardians have not paid their meal fees. The bill, authored by state Sen. Robert Hertzberg, says students shouldn’t be denied a meal of their choice because of unpaid fees. 

The 9-year-old boy gathered his allowance – all $74.80 of it – and used it to pay off his third grade class’s lunch debt. Kyote isn’t the only young student to bring attention to the issue of student meal debt. A survey by the School Nutrition Association found that three-fourths of school districts reported having unpaid student meal debt at the end of the 2016-2017 school year. Of those districts, 40.2% said the number of students without adequate funds increased last school year, the association found. In early September, when Jefferson Sharpnack grabbed his lunch tray on his ninth birthday, school staff instead gave him something else: bread and cheese. 

The school system told CNN that the boy was served an alternative lunch which is given to students with deficit accounts. The superintendent later sent a note to parents saying all students would receive the standard lunch regardless of their account balance. Over the summer, one Pennsylvania school district sent a letter home saying any student who owned lunch money should pay or they’d go to foster care. Earlier this year, in May, yogurt company Chobani paid off the lunch debt of some students after finding out a Rhode Island school system had announced that any students with unpaid balances on their lunch accounts would be getting a sun butter and jelly sandwich until their balance was paid. 

Keywords: [“school”,”student”,”lunch”]