Lunch shaming has been a hot-button issue for FSDs around the country. While many regions have passed measures outlawing the practice, states have also begun introducing bills to end lunch shaming. Read on to see which states have introduced (and, in some cases, passed) legislation seeking to end lunch shaming.
1. New Mexico
Last year, New Mexico passed one of the first lunch-shaming bills in the nation. The Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights requires all students be served a meal regardless of whether they can pay. The bill also prevents students receiving a gratis lunch from being publicly identified. In addition, New Mexico schools must also work with parents directly to address unpaid lunch balances. The state recently introduced a follow-up bill that would require the state’s Public Education Department to study the nutrition value of the free breakfast and lunches schools provide to ensure those meals are healthy.
A lunch-shaming bill is passed Washington’s state House earlier this month and is now headed to the state Senate. Introduced by representative Strom Peterson, the bill would outlaw schools from refusing to provide meals to every student and would prevent them from forcing students to do chores in exchange for lunch. The bill would also set up a system for schools if a student is behind on meal payments. After a student doesn’t pay for five or more lunches, the school’s principal or counselor would work with that student’s family to see if they should apply for free meals or reduced lunch, and assist them in filling out the application.
California has also ended the practice of lunch shaming. Signed into law last fall, SB 250 requires schools to serve meals to all students and mandates that schools must reach out to and work with parents no more than 10 days after a student accumulates meal debt.
5. New York
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a program designed to end lunch shaming at the start of this year. The No Student Goes Hungry Program would outlaw districts from publicly embarrassing students who can’t pay for their meal and would require that students be served a meal regardless of whether they can pay. School districts in which 70% of students are eligible for free and reduced-price meals would also be required to serve breakfast after the first bell. The state says it will offer technical assistance and $7 million in capital funds to help expand the breakfast program to 1,400 schools throughout the state.
A lunch-shaming bill was introduced to Indiana’s state government this year. Under the bill, students would receive a meal regardless of their ability to pay and would not be publicly shamed. Schools would also be responsible for reaching out to parents if students haven’t paid for more than four meals.
Pennsylvania’s bill banning lunch shaming was signed into law last November. As with other lunch-shaming legislation, the law requires districts to provide hot meals to all students without stigmatizing them. The state has had its own brush with lunch shaming in the past. In 2016, a lunch-shaming incident went viral after a cafeteria worker at a school district in Pittsburgh quit her job due to being forced to take hot meals away from students who couldn’t pay.
SB 840, which outlaws lunch shaming, has passed Virginia’s state House. The bill would require that all communication regarding unpaid lunch balances happen via written letters given to students to bring home to their parents. The bill was approved by the Senate Committee on Education last month and is now heading to the full state Senate.
Last summer, Gov. Gregg Abbott signed a bill into law that requires districts to honor a grace period for students with unpaid balances during which they cannot withhold hot meals. The law also forces districts to notify parents when their child’s meal funds run out.
Sen. Kenny Yuko introduced a bill to end lunch shaming last year. His Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights Act would ban singling out students who can’t pay for their lunch. Also, districts would have to reach out to the families of students with meal debt and would be responsible for submitting applications for free or reduced-price lunches for eligible students whose families haven’t applied.