School lunch shaming is a practice where students are publicly humiliated for not having enough money to buy lunch. And it happens in a variety of ways. Some schools stamp students’ hands with the words, “I need lunch money,” as happened recently in Alabama. Or they take away hot, nutritious meals from students and give them sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwiches instead, as seen in one district in Rhode Island. School administrators have even sent debt collectors after families with overdrawn lunch accounts. It’s a practice that stigmatizes children and largely impacts marginalized populations.
Nonprofit leaders, school activists and government officials are working to end lunch shaming. A school cafeteria worker quit her job after being forced to throw away a first grader’s lunch because he didn’t have money to pay for it. Her story inspired legislators in Pennsylvania to ban lunch shaming.
Another approach to ending lunch shaming is through the government program called Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). By adopting CEP, schools in high poverty areas can opt for the entire student body to receive free breakfast and lunch. This way, kids don’t go into debt and cannot be shamed.
Watch the video to learn more about lunch shaming and how some people are working to end it.