While North Dakota lawmakers failed to pass a universal free meals bill earlier this legislative session, a lunch shaming bill became law in the state this past week.
Meanwhile, North Carolina introduced two bills related to school nutrition, and Massachusetts will continue funding universal free meals for the rest of the school year.
Here’s the latest in school nutrition legislation.
North Dakota bans lunch shaming
Lunch shaming will now be prohibited at schools across North Dakota, per a bill signed into law last Friday. Under HB 1492, schools may not publicly identify or stigmatize students who are behind on meal payments. They are also not allowed to take away meals or provide alternative meals to students who have meal debt.
The state joins Massachusetts and others in passing a law banning such practices, collectively known as lunch shaming.
North Dakota also introduced a universal free meals bill this legislative session, but it died in the Senate.
Grape juice gets a push in North Carolina
North Carolina students may soon be sipping 100% Muscadine grape juice during meals, thanks to a new farm bill that would require school nutrition programs throughout the state to offer the beverage.
Muscadine grapes are native to North Carolina and are “rich in 27 antioxidants and phytochemicals, including resveratrol, among many others,” according to the bill.
The bill also requires community colleges to make the beverage available on campus. It has been referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and Operations.
Meanwhile, a separate North Carolina bill aims to tackle school meal debt in the state.
HB 509 would appropriate more than $3.1 million from the state’s General Fund to the Department of Public Instruction to cover any outstanding school nutrition program debt.
That bill has been referred to the House Committee on Appropriations.
Massachusetts signs off on more free meals
Massachusetts students have been guaranteed access to free meals at school—at least for the rest of the academic year.
Governor Maura Healey has signed into law a $389 million supplemental budget that includes funding to offer universal free meals through the end of this school year.
The state was one of several that continued to offer universal free meals after the U.S. Department of Agriculture waivers allowing school nutrition programs nationwide to feed all students for free expired last June. State funding for the meals was set to run out this spring, however.
Looking ahead, Massachusetts lawmakers recently introduced a bill that would require schools participating in the National School Lunch or School Breakfast Programs to offer the meals for free to all students, beginning July 1. It is currently in the House Committee on Education.
See which states currently offer universal free meals via the map below: