AUGUSTA – Maine lawmakers and teachers are banding together to fight against food shaming in school cafeterias.
According to dictionary.com, to shame something is to bring disgrace to it. Now apply that to food.
Lawmakers say food shaming has been plaguing some school cafeterias throughout Maine.
A bill being considered by state lawmakers aims to remove the stigma around students who are unable to pay for school meals.
“Children need food to learn and denial of food or shaming of a student because of some miscommunication or a parent’s inability to pay the debt should not be a source of punishment,” said Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester.
Supporters of the bill, including Rep. Michelle Meyer, say that public schools are humiliating students through various means.
“Withholding hot meals, posting lists of delinquent accounts, stamping hands and offering alternative meals frequently of lesser nutritional quality and often wildly known by other students to signify a family’s past-due bill,” said Meyer, a Democrat from Eliot.
Amanda Cooper, a Gorham Middle School teacher, said the current system that schools have in place cost a transfer student a meal because he had not filled out the necessary paperwork.
“During the transition [the student] hadn’t had the opportunity to fill out the free and reduced lunch form — which is a process in and of itself that needs reforming — and that child was denied a lunch because they haven’t gone through the process,” Cooper said.
The bottom line for lawmakers, teachers, and parents who support this bill is one thing:
“We have students in our schools who qualify for free and reduced meals who are not eating,” said Rep. Jan Dodge, D-Belfast.
Supporters said the bill is a first step toward changing that.