A few Washington lawmakers are seeking bring in a legislating to end school lunch shaming.
The sponsor of the bill Rep. Strom Peterson, said that children must not be forced to “go hungry or be humiliated” just because they can’t afford lunch. He said that the legislative action seeks to ensure that school districts don’t “stigmatize “kids and the students receive the necessary nutrition.
Under lunch shaming, students who are unable to pay their meals or carry outstanding debt in regards to their school lunch account are singled out in the cafeteria.
Peterson said he had been prompted to introduce his “hunger-free students” bill after hearing reports of students being stigmatized in the lunchroom.
Crowdfunding Effort To Erase Lunch Debt Successful
Last year, a crowdfunding drive to erase local school lunch debt became viral.
Jeffrey Lew set up a GoFundMe page after finding out that some students were struggling to pay for school breakfast and lunch, and were also not qualifying for free meals. He had also heard of incidents wherein some school districts were throwing away food in front of students or refusing to give food children who could not afford to pay.
Currently, in cases of low account balances, Seattle students are given verbal warnings from the school and may have to take home a note. However all students in kindergarten up until eighth grade are eligible to receive emergency meals for up to three days if they are unable to pay for their meals.
Bill Protects Students Unable to Pay For Lunch
The bill proposed by Peterson will have provisions forbidding schools from practising lunch shaming tactics like identifying the students not paying for lunch publicly or throwing away a student’s food. It would not allow student to be forced to do chores to pay for a lunch.
In order to put in long-term solutions for students are unable to afford lunch regularly, the bill will require that if a student fails to pay for a meal five times or more, the school will need to see if the child is in need of free meals or reduced lunch. A principal or school counsellor must assist in completing the student’s application and provide the necessary assistance in case students are facing issues at home that prevent them paying for lunch.
The bill was cleared by the state House this week, and will now head to the state Senate for further consideration.