What is “lunch shaming?”
“Lunch shaming” is a harsh disciplinary practice in which students who cannot pay their school lunch bill or have outstanding debt on their account are punished. Examples of lunch shaming include:
- Stamping children on the arm with the phrase “I Need Lunch Money”
- Forcing children to complete chores in front of fellow students to work off the debt
- Requiring cafeteria workers to throw away a child’s hot lunch if they cannot afford it
It’s hard to believe these draconian policies are still being used around the country in 2017. While some schools claim it is the only way to get families to pay up, these policies humiliate and stigmatize children and low-income families.
Nearly half of all school districts use lunch shaming.
Our friends at New Mexico Appleseed have been working tirelessly to challenge lunch shaming and ban it from their state, advocating for the rights of hungry children and low-income families. The central argument is, while lunch debt is a problem for schools, in no way should the children be left hungry, humiliated, and less likely to learn. Instead, school officials must work with the parents or guardians to come up with a solution and leave the children out of it.
Thanks to support from both parties and the fierce advocacy of New Mexico Appleseed, Gov. Susana Martinez signed the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights this past April. The law applies to all schools – public, private, or religious – that receive federal subsidies for breakfast and lunch programs.
Now the fight is going national, with bipartisan leadership unveiling federal legislation designed to outlaw lunch shaming and better ensure no student goes hungry, regardless of their ability to pay.
Join us to end lunch shaming for good!
- Prohibit punishments of any kind for students short on lunch money or who have an outstanding balance on their account
- Ban the “marking” or identifying of students who owe lunch debt
- Prevent schools from withholding food from children
- Encourage schools to ensure eligible children are enrolled in free or reduced-price meal programs
- Make paying off lunch debt easier for parents and guardians through online systems
Keep humiliation tactics out of schools!
Massachusetts Appleseed, along with many others, has signed on to endorse bills S.1064 and H.R.2401. Lunch shaming reminds us that we have a long way to go in our schools in ensuring equal treatment for all students.
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