California bans school lunch shaming

Photo: BRPH (iStock)

America is overall a wealthy nation, and yet, for some reason certain members of our population seem to be completely okay with the fact that over 11 million children go hungry each day. One of the few reliable places children can get a meal is at school but, but as the news reminds us every few weeks, many starving children are denied food thanks to outstanding lunch debt. Often, these stories are followed up with some sort of crowdfunding campaign that allows everyone to feel better, as if the problem is solved. But it’s not. There are plenty of children who are denied meals by the public school system every day who don’t get the opportunity to go viral, who don’t get to benefit from the generosity of strangers. This is a systemic issue that needs to be seriously addressed by all levels of government, just as California has done by officially making “school lunch shaming” illegal.

CNN reports that Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed into law piece of legislation that guarantees all students will receive lunch, regardless of whether there is an unpaid balance on their school lunch account. The legislation also ensures that students will “not [be]shamed, treated differently, or served a meal that differs from what a pupil whose parent or guardian does not have unpaid school meal fees would receive under that local educational agency’s policy.” It also discusses more effective ways of communicating outstanding balances with parents.

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Heading into 2020, the school lunch debt crisis is being addressed by some of the Democratic presidential candidates—a huge step forward in dealing with a problem that, in a kind and compassionate world, would not be a partisan issue. But, sadly, it is, and those of us who find the idea of hungry children to be deplorable need to continue to pressure our local, state, and federal representatives for solutions.

For more ways that you can personally do to ensure hungry children can have access to at least one meal a day, check out this piece on Lifehacker for ideas, resources, and links to organizations that are trying to ensure that children do not starve while they wait for American adults to act.

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About the author

Allison Robicelli

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, host of The Robicelli Argument Clinic Podcast, the author of three books, and a swan meat influencer.