Why Some Say It’s Past Time Texas Bans ‘Lunch Shaming’

Proposals in the Texas Legislature would prevent school districts from continuing to use some methods of punishing students for being unable to pay for school lunches.

By Laura RiceMay 15, 2017 1:19 pm,

The hungry student finally gets to the front of the school lunch line, stomach growling. Today’s lunch isn’t a favorite – but it’s going to feel so good to have something warm to eat. But, at the register, the student hears a terrible beep when the lunch worker swipes the lunch card – there’s no more money on it. The hot lunch goes right in the trash in front of the entire class. Instead, the student is handed a cold sandwich and instructed to finish quickly so as to help wash tables.

This is lunch shaming. And it’s not a nightmare – it’s a reality in one form or another in schools across Texas. Proposals before Texas lawmakers would prohibit this kind of treatment.

Celia Cole is CEO of Feeding Texas — the nonprofit network of Texas food banks. She was involved in crafting this bill.

“It really basically sets some very common sense standards for things that schools cannot do when this issue,” Cole says. “So they cannot publicly identify a student with an unpaid balance, any efforts to contact the parents have to be discreet and in no way, again, identify that student in front of his or her peers, requires them to adopt a grace period in which the child continues to receive the same meals as every other kid to give the schools some time to reach out to those families and figure out what’s going on.”

Cole says while the original proposal was held up as a procedural matter in the Texas House, she’s very hopeful that the measure will pass as part of some other legislation that is moving forward.