New Mexico Outlaws 'Lunch-Shaming' Hungry Children

New Mexico Outlaws 'Lunch-Shaming' Hungry Children

School lunch shaming is a thing in certain states, and in particular, in some red states, where they're willing to go to the mat for fetuses but not quite as willing to pay attention to feeding hungry children.

A New York Times article this weekend described some states' practices for children who couldn't pay for their lunches which should never, ever be something happening in this country.

"In Alabama, a child short on funds was stamped on the arm with “I Need Lunch Money," the article said. "[C]hildren are forced to clean cafeteria tables in front of their peers to pay the debt. Other schools require cafeteria workers to take a child’s hot food and throw it in the trash if he doesn’t have the money to pay for it."

This is despicable and inhuman, but it happens.

In New Mexico, it won't happen any more.

Last week, Gov. Susana Martinez signed the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights. Under the new law, schools are directed to work with parents to pay their debts or sign up for federal meal assistance. It further ends practices like those described above, which are only meant to embarrass children.

All schools -- religious, private and public -- will be subject to the law, and will be required to comply with it.

The reason shaming happens, it seems, is that many schools carry lunch debt forward and cannot be reimbursed with federal dollars for it. As a result, they come up with ways to shame children into paying debts for which they have no means to do so.

This bill is a step forward, but it needs to be adopted in every state. No child should go hungry in this country. No child should be shamed for wanting to eat. And the idea that a child should have a hot meal tossed rather than be allowed to eat it just defies all understanding at all.


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