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It’s Time To Stop ‘Lunch Shaming’ Poor Children With Cold Food

A school district in Warwick, Rhode Island has decided that students whose parents owe “lunch debt” for their child’s food will be served cold sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwiches instead of a hot lunch. School board officials say the controversial move is thanks to the district being saddled with almost $80,000 in debt, but parents are livid.

Outraged parents point out the plan shames poor children and won’t do anything to tackle the district’s debt (the district even rejected a restaurant owner’s offer to donate $4,000 to pay off some kids’ delinquent funds). Some are pointing out that because the parents are the ones who owe money, it makes no sense to punish children.

“I just don’t think it’s fair to hold the kids responsible,” one parent told WLNE. “I think it’s embarrassing to the kids because now everyone’s going to know why these children are receiving the lunch that they are.”

And that’s the main problem with lunch shaming programs like this. The burden of being poor and hungry is a heavy weight to carry already, but adding the public stigma opens kids up to bullying, too.

Other schools have tried similar lunch shaming plans in the past, forcing kids to wear stamps or bracelets or even throwing their lunches away in full view of their classmates when cafeteria workers find out kids can’t pay. A handful of states have banned lunch shaming practices to prevent kids from being singled out at school.

Folks on Twitter were equally outraged and many shared their own stories of the shame that comes with being on a free or reduced lunch plan, let alone one comes with a public shaming.

For many poor children, free and reduced school breakfasts and lunches are the only food they get during the week. Some kids get food on the weekends, thanks to charity programs, but many kids still go hungry in between Friday afternoon and Monday morning.

There’s an easy solution to the problem—give all kids at school a free lunch and pay for it by taxing wealthier Americans. Children don’t learn as well on an empty stomach and well-fed kids suffer fewer health problems. Additionally, free lunch for all children would place them on the same plane, removing any stigma from a free or reduced lunch program. Also, it just seems like common sense to provide kids with the energy they need to get through the school day.

Unfortunately “lunch shaming” is just another heartbreaking example of how our country is failing kids.

h/t: Washington Post