1) This is a bill to address “School Lunch Shaming” and to protect children at our schools. It's the humiliating practice of "lunch shaming" – school policies that publicly single out poor students in an effort to force parents to pay lunch bills – and it's happening in Virginia school cafeterias all because their parents cannot afford to pay for lunch. Legislative action could stop this appalling practice once and for all.

2) This is a bill to end lunch shaming and ensure all children have access to a meal, regardless of their parents' ability to pay. We must make this a priority and pass this bill before any more children are subjected to this deplorable practice.

3) News stories in the last few months detail young children – many who have language barrier issues – being shamefully singled out in school in front of their peers and forced to undergo public humiliation because of an unpaid lunch debt owed to the school.1 These students have absolutely no control over their families' finances, yet school administrators are abusing these children because of their parents' inability to pay.

4) A recent study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that nearly half of all school districts in the country practice some form of lunch shaming.2 And while some states like New Mexico have taken local action to stop these practices, federal law currently does not prohibit schools from stigmatizing students in this way, allowing schools to continue shaming children for no fault of their own.3

5) Specifically, the Anti-Lunch Shaming bill would

  • Prohibit schools from stigmatizing children with hand stamps, wristbands or other public means;
  • Prevent schools from forcing children to perform chores in order to receive a meal;
  • Stop lunch workers from disposing of a meal after it's been served to a child; and
  • Require all communications regarding lunch bills be directed to parents or guardians instead of children, if the letter is not distributed to the child in a manner that stigmatizes the child..

6) In 2016, the School Nutrition Association published a review of almost 1,000 school lunch programs, finding that nearly 75 percent of districts had unpaid meal debt.

7) The common sense approach to this issue is to provide school meals on the same basis that we provide school transportation and textbooks.

References: 1) Bettina Elias Siegel, "Shaming Children So Parents Will Pay the School Lunch Bill," The New York Times, April 30, 2017.  2) U.S. Department of Agriculture, Special Nutrition Program Operations Study: State and School Food Authority Policies and Practices for School Meals Programs School Year 2011-12, March 2017. 3) Bettina Elias Siegel, "New Mexico Outlaws School ‘Lunch Shaming," The New York Times, April 7, 2017.