Washington State bans schools from lunch-shaming kids who can’t pay

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“Lunch-shaming” sounds like Bender making fun of Brian’s very well-rounded bag lunch in The Breakfast Club. But it’s actually one of those practices that makes sense on one level; on the other, you gotta wonder what the fuck people were thinking. Washington State just passed a bill making it illegal for schools to “lunch shame”: stamping kids’ hands when their lunch accounts run out, or throwing away perfectly good lunches in favor of replacing the meals of funds-less kids with milk and bread or similar.

Seattle NPR outlet KUOW describes, “Throwing away the lunches of students who can’t pay is part of a practice called lunch shaming. Sometimes schools will stamp a student’s hand or pin a note to their shirt.” Washington governor Jay Inslee signed a bill Tuesday that forces schools to reach out to parents without burdening kids. And schools will no longer be able to throw away trays of food in favor of a prison-level meal.


One dad whose son had his lunch taken away and replaced with a piece of bread and a carton of milk told KUOW, “I was pretty mad. We didn’t get proper notification. And second of all, it’s like you took the kid’s lunch already. He’s a second grader; so at that time he’s 7-years-old. So all he knows is that he did something wrong and his food is being taken away from him. It’s like a punishment.” Even though free and reduced-cost lunch plans exist, some of the students’ lunch accounts still fall through the cracks, resulting in the thankfully now-banned practice of lunch shaming.

Sure, on one hand, the handstamp is an easy indicator to parents that they need to replenish lunch funds, more likely to be spotted than a note from the school bound to get lost in a sea of paper in a backpack. But that handstamp is now a mark to the other kids that their parents are low on money, or even just screwed up the paperwork, but certainly makes the kid an easy target for ridicule. And throwing away perfectly good food is just ridiculous. We’ve never heard such a powerful argument for brown-bagging it in our lives, but hopefully any other schools that follow this practice will follow Washington’s example straightaway.