Shaming Children for School Lunch Debt is a National Problem

Should a child whose parents struggle to make ends meet be shamed for not being able to afford school breakfasts and lunches, running up debt at school that goes unpaid? In schools across the USA, children and parents are undergoing scrutiny and shame for their school meals’ debt and it’s a national problem that needs a national solution. Public shaming practices have included singling children out, labeling them with stamps that read “I need lunch money,” or providing children with unsatisfactory meals like sunflower butter and jelly sandwiches. Other schools have gone so far as to prohibit students from participating in extracurricular activities, or even threatening to put children with outstanding school lunch debt in foster care (which, of course, is merely a threat). It’s unfortunate enough if an impoverished family can’t afford school meals, let alone have a child publicly shamed or, even worse, punish their parents by threatening to take away their custody under the guise of “because you cannot provide for your child.”

The government has passed various acts to make progress towards finding a national solution for this serious and widespread problem. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandated that schools examine this issue and establish a policy for outstanding school meal fees. The No Shame at School Act has cracked down on public shaming of students with school meal debt by prohibiting any kind of identification of such students, banning wristbands or handstamps. The only real solution in an idealized world would be to offer all children free school lunches regardless of their financial situation.

ParentsUSATM is working to solve this problem. ParentsUSATM is moving forward by paying the overdue bills at schools starting with The Main Street Academy in College Park, Georgia, then taking aim at other schools across the USA. In addition to paying the overdue bills, ParentsUSATM seeks longer-term solutions by assisting parents in completing the application process to qualify for free school meals under programs in place and by working with others to generate legislation and funding appropriations to eliminate the issue altogether. But waiting while students go without food (when not getting in line knowing they have a past-due bill at school) or are put through the shaming process is not acceptable, which is why, as some individuals and groups around the USA do from time to time, ParentsUSATM is taking to heart its mission to help other parents and their children.

When you become a parent-member for $29 or donate $29 or more, your dues and donations help us pay for subsidized meals for a student for 2 months and expand the reach of our “Kids’ School Meals on ParentsUSATM” initiative. Join and Donate today. Learn more about the issue here:

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