• Law would ban lunch shaming in Washington state

    By: KIRO 7 News Staff

    Updated:

    Some Washington lawmakers are working to bring school lunch shaming to an end.

    “Children should not go hungry or be humiliated because they cannot afford lunch that day,” said bill sponsor Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds. “We have the opportunity to make sure that our school districts are not stigmatizing kids and that our state’s students are getting the nutrition they need to succeed in school.”

    Lunch shaming happens when students are singled out in the cafeteria for not being able to pay for their meal, or they have outstanding debt on their school lunch account. Peterson says his "hunger-free students" bill comes in response to the reports of students being stigmatized in the lunchroom.

    Effort to erase lunch debt in Washington went viral

    When parents raised over $21,000 last year to erase local school lunch debt, the effort went viral

    At the helm of the campaign was Seattle Public Schools graduate Jeffrey Lew.

    Lew started a GoFundMe page when he found out that some students struggle to pay for school breakfast and lunch, often not qualifying for free meals, and therefore racking up debt with the school district.

    Lew had also heard nightmare stories about some school districts throwing away food in front of students or refusing to feed children who could not afford to pay.

    Seattle Public Schools does not shame students, as some districts around the county have done.

    Scroll down to keep reading.

    Seattle students who have low account balances receive verbal warnings from the school and may get a note to take home.

    If the money runs out, the district provides students in kindergarten through eighth grade with emergency meals for up to three days. Those meals consist of graham crackers and milk for breakfast or fruit, vegetables and milk for lunch.

    What bill would do

    Peterson's bill would forbid schools that practice lunch shaming tactics from identifying students publicly for not paying for lunch or throwing away a student's food. It would also ban forcing a student to do chores to pay for a lunch.

    The bill also looks at long-term solutions for students who repeatedly are unable to afford lunch.

    According to the bill, if a student hasn't paid for a meal for five times or more, the school will look into whether the child needs to apply for free meals or reduced lunch. From there, a principal or school counselor can help complete the student's application and offer appropriate assistance if there are any issues at home preventing the student from paying for lunch.

    The bill looks to improve the system for homeless students as well as ensure proper access to meals.

    The bill passed the state House on Wednesday, and now it goes to the state Senate for further consideration.


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