Majority Of States Shame Kids Who Can’t Afford School Lunch

by Cassandra Stone
Image via Shutterstock

Oregon students no longer have to worry about lunch shaming

Following New Mexico’s lead when it comes to lunch shaming, Oregon lawmakers voted unanimously to outlaw the practice of shaming kids who can’t afford to buy lunch at school. It’s nice to know sometimes politicians are capable of siding with humanity, because who in their right mind could possibly be in favor of punishing hungry children?

The bill requires the National School Lunch Program to provide all students in Oregon schools with an equal lunch, regardless of their family’s income or inability to pay. This means that students in Oregon who can’t afford lunch won’t be served lesser, alternative options or singled out by school employees. Because a lunch free of embarrassment is something all kids deserve.

Unfortunately, the practice of lunch shaming is becoming quite common in schools nationwide. Remember that school in Phoenix that humiliated students by literally branding them with the words “Lunch Money” when their accounts run low? A cafeteria worker at a Pittsburgh school recently quit her job after being forced to throw away a first-grader’s lunch and offer him a paltry cheese sandwich instead because his account had insufficient funds.

Charming, isn’t it? Punishing elementary school children for something completely beyond their control is outrageous. Making sure school students are fed should be a priority in our country. Policy changes like those in Oregon and New Mexico are necessary. At the very least, state legislature needs to protect students from being singled out and humiliated when they don’t have enough money to eat. There is simply no justifiable reason why a hot meal should be thrown in the trash and not offered to a hungry kid.

Look, not all parents are going to pack lunches for their kids. As nice and ideal as this would be, it’s completely unrealistic and unenforceable. Not all parents can afford daily school lunches, either. So why are we punishing innocent children for the negligence or financial circumstances of their parents and guardians? It’s cruel to do so, and it’s a form of abuse to single out and embarrass children by stamping them or throwing their food away.

Hopefully more states follow suit in outlawing these practices. California and Texas are currently working on anti-shaming legislation of their own. It should go without saying that only positive things can come from well-fed children who are free from public humiliation in the lunchroom.