New Mexico Becomes First State to Prohibit Lunch Money Shaming in Schools!
We could not be any prouder of New Mexico for passing legislation last month that makes it illegal for schools to shame children who don’t have lunch money. For those who haven’t heard the news, lunch shaming is a term used to describe the humiliation that many schools around the country inflict on children for failing to have enough funds on their account to pay for lunch.
Lunch Money Shaming in Schools Takes Many Forms
On the less extreme end, schools embarrass children by stamping their hands with messages like, ‘I need lunch money.’ This can be very ostracizing for a child who is learning how to make friends and wants to be accepted. Children need to feel that they are just as worthy and important as their peers. They should not feel shamed by financial situations that are beyond their control.
In many cases, lunch money shaming is more severe than stamping hands or refusing to serve kids. Other kids have actually had their lunches thrown away because that was the school’s policy! Still others have been humiliated in front of all of their peers, forced to wash tables or mop floors to earn lunch. It’s terrible but true: Some students are forced to do janitorial tasks in front of their peers to earn the right to eat.
Important Implications of Denying Nutrition to a Child Who Can’t Afford Lunch
When children have their lunches thrown away, right in front of them, and are forced to go hungry, it’s important to consider the implications of the situation. We need to be aware that the kids who are most likely to struggle with paying for lunch may also be relying on that lunch as their only real meal of the day.
There are cases where the lack of lunch money was simply an oversight. Yet, many of these cases occur because the family can’t afford the food. If the child can’t afford the lunch money, it is likely that the same child couldn’t afford breakfast, and won’t be able to afford dinner.
Further, we’re talking about a child who can’t afford food, when it was never the child’s responsibility to begin with. The child doesn’t have a job and doesn’t manage his household finances. We don’t say this to shame the adults in their lives, who may be struggling with hardships we know nothing about. Rather, we mention this to further emphasize that there is no situation in which a child should be punished, shamed, or refused their lunch because of financial challenges that are beyond their control. Even in cases where it is simply an oversight, and the family can afford lunch, it is still not the child’s oversight. The child is innocent. The child is hungry.
Parents and communities have frequently been outraged at the shame, humiliation, and victimization of children at the hands of schools where they should feel safe and accepted. Children come home in tears, completely embarrassed by these immoral school lunch room practices.
Not All Schools Engage in Lunch Money Shaming Behaviors
Lunch money shaming is not a problem in all schools within or outside of New Mexico. Many schools do not engage in such harmful actions against innocent children. They may alert the parents with a phone call or a note home. They may never embarrass or refuse to feed a hungry kid. There are obviously many ways that a school could handle these situations, and some handle them better than others. Yet, the fact that these lunch money shaming tactics are allowed leads to many schools behaving in ways that most consider to be cruel and harmful to children.
We don’t want to exaggerate the problem by implying that every school has such policies. But we do want to raise awareness. This is happening in many of America’s grade school, middle school, and high school lunch rooms. We also want to applaud the compassion and leadership of New Mexico for being the very first state to give children legal protection from such humiliating situations.
Were you or your children ever shamed in a school lunch room for not having enough money? Have you ever witnessed this kind of situation involving someone else? Share your story in the comments, and tell us how you handled it. Then, share this post with your friends to join us in applauding our great state for making such an important change in the lives of our children, our community, and our future generations.