The Anti-Lunch Shaming Act would ban schools nationwide from the practice of publicly singling out children — such as with wrist bands or assigned chores — if they can't pay for school meals
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) in introducing legislation to prohibit school “lunch shaming” – the practice of discriminating against or stigmatizing children who have outstanding credit or don't have enough money to pay for meals at school. The Anti-Lunch Shaming Act would ban schools from singling out children — such as by requiring them to wear hand stamps or do extra chores — because their parents or guardians have not paid their school meal bills.
“All students, regardless of socioeconomic status, should have the opportunity to learn in a supportive environment,” said Senator Collins. “No child should feel ashamed or stigmatized because he or she cannot afford to pay for school meals. By prohibiting schools from refusing a meal as a form of disciplinary action or openly identifying a student who cannot pay or owes money, our bipartisan bill will also help to prevent hunger and allow students to focus on their studies.”
The Anti-Lunch Shaming Act would prohibit schools participating in U.S. Department of Agriculture school lunch or breakfast programs from using humiliation, throwing children’s meals away, or other shaming tactics because their parents or guardians haven't paid their school meal bill. Instead, it would require schools to direct communications regarding meal debt to the parents or guardians, not the child.
The Anti-Lunch Shaming Act would:
- Make the process for applying for free and reduced-price lunch applications simpler by encouraging the Department of Agriculture to distribute the maximum number of applications for free or reduced-price lunches in an understandable, uniform format and encourage schools to offer assistance to complete the applications;
- Coordinate with State agencies, school food authorities, and local education agency liaisons to ensure that homeless youth and children in foster care are eligible to receive a free or reduced-price lunch; and
- Explore innovative ways to use technology to improve communications between parents or guardians and school food authorities.
The legislation is also cosponsored by Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). Companion legislation has also been introduced in the House of Representatives.