To deny a child a meal during school lunch is not only humiliating, it’s food that could be the one nutritious meal he or she gets for the day. When news surfaced last month that Utah had dumped school lunches in the trash when students couldn’t pay, Minnesota decided to see if they were also on the same boat. Their troubling survey found that, like Utah, the majority of their own districts would deny a hot meal — or even any meal — to a child who could not pay for it.
According to the Associated Press, about 62,000 low-income children and teens take part in the state’s reduced-price lunch program where a hot, nutritious tray of food costs 40 cents. But if a student cannot pay that 40 cents, they are usually given food like cold cheese sandwiches. In worse cases, they are denied food altogether and, sometimes, little hands are stamped with the words “LUNCH” or “MONEY.”
In response to these findings, lawmakers have pledged to ensure all school children are fed during lunch. State Congressman, Senator Jeff Hayden (D) and Representative Yvonne Selcer (D) proposed a bill called No Child Turned Away that would provide thousands of low-income students with free lunches.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has also proposed $3.5 million in public funds to help schools cover lunch costs for students who can’t afford to pay for a hot meal. “No child in Minnesota should be denied a healthy lunch,” Dayton said in a statement. “We cannot expect our students to succeed on an empty stomach.”