New Mexico outlaws lunch shaming

by Lawrence Cooper April 11, 2017, 0:22
New Mexico outlaws lunch shaming

Proponents of the New Mexico school lunch law complained schools that shamed students say the practice is relatively common. Previously, schools were permitted to make students mop cafeteria floors for food if their families were unable to make hot lunch payments. Michael Padilla, who grew up in foster homes and experienced shaming tactics as a child, said he introduced the bill because of his harrowing experience growing up. And it requires every school to serve every child a healthy meal - applying to all schools, state or private, religious or not. Schools around the country penalize students who rack up debt on school food. It's the first such bill in the country created to combat "lunch shaming".

"This bill draws a line in the sand between the student and the unpaid school meal fees that their parents or guardians owe, oftentimes because they can not afford to pay on time", Jennifer Ramo, executive director of New Mexico Appleseed in the Food Research & Action Center, said in a statement.

In some schools, a child short on funds is stamped on the arm to notify everyone of their lack of lunch money.

Although these policies are still prevalent across the United States, such as a Pittsburgh-area cafeteria worker who made national news after quitting her job instead of denying hot lunches to students, New Mexico's new policy may be the start of turning around the horrid practice of shaming kids who can't afford lunch.

"I made Mrs. Ortiz and Mrs. Jackson, our school lunch ladies, my best friends".

Others schools make students wear wrist bands, or do chores.

New Mexico is not alone in dealing with school meal debt.

A nation-wide survey by the School Nutrition Association found that three-quarters of school districts reported unpaid student meal debt, ranging anywhere from a few thousand dollars to over $4 million.

Some school employees reach into their own pockets to pay for meals.

Jennifer Ramo, executive director of New Mexico Appleseed, an anti-poverty group that spearheaded the law, explained some of the reasoning behind the bill. Schools will not be allowed to publicly target the children for punishment, but they will be allowed to withhold transcripts and older students' parking passes in an attempt to recoup the debt.

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