The Effort to Eliminate Student Lunch Shaming is Picking Up Steam
Public schools should be a place where students of all socioeconomic backgrounds can feel equal, comfortable, and safe. But too often, critics say less fortunate children become the subject of ridicule thanks to “humiliating” school practices aimed at addressing student lunch money debt.
This month, schools across the U.S. will take steps to alleviate some but not all of these problems.
The U.S. Agriculture Department is requiring districts to adopt policies this month for addressing meal debts and to inform parents at the start of the academic year.
The agency is not specifically barring most of the embarrassing tactics, such as serving cheap sandwiches in place of hot meals or sending students home with conspicuous debt reminders, such as hand stamps. But it is encouraging schools to work more closely with parents to address delinquent accounts and ensure children don’t go hungry.
“Rather than a hand stamp on a kid to say, ‘I need lunch money,’ send an email or a text message to the parent,” said Tina Namian, who oversees the federal agency’s school meals policy branch.
The critics say these policies don’t go far enough. Fortunately, some states have stepped in to implement their own.
New Mexico, for instance, recently became the first to bar school meal shaming. The law requires schools to work directly with the parents on debt matters. In May, a bill preventing schools from denying lunch to a child whose parent has not paid was approved by the California Senate. Numerous other states can be expected to adopt similar policies in the coming months and years.
Read more about how schools are rethinking student lunch debt shaming here.