St. Louis Lawmaker Wants to End "Food Shaming" in Schools

Megan Lynch
January 24, 2019 - 10:22 am
Missouri State Capitol

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St. Louis, MO (KMOX) - A St. Louis legislator wants to put an end to "food shaming" in Missouri schools.

State Representative Ian Mackey says he received free meals as a child.  Because of that he says he wore a different colored wristband and experienced having his lunch thrown away because he couldn't pay.  "We want every kid to be fed. Period.  And we want kids to be fed the same meal," says Mackey.

A measure he's sponsored would require schools to contact parents about lunch money -- not discuss debt with students.  "If there's an issue where a child's having trouble paying for their lunch, that issue should be taken up with the parent, not with a child in front of their peers with lunch in their hand"

The bill would prohibit schools from publicly identifying or stigmatizing students due to meal debt.  It would mandate that districts provide a federally reimburseable meal -- not just a cheese sandwich, for example -- and offer to assist families with free and reduced lunch applications.

Schools in Missouri deal with the issue in various ways.  Some use federal money to provide free meals to all students.  Other schools turn in lunch debt to collection agencies.  While some districts have asked for donations from the community to offset thousands of dollars in meal debt.