Rep. Nolan Introduces the No Shame - No Blame Act Prohibiting School ‘Lunch Shaming’
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Schools would be prohibited from shaming, punishing or stigmatizing students who are unable to pay for their meals, or who hold unpaid balances in their accounts, under the ‘No Shame - No Blame’ Act, H.R. 6977, introduced by U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan. The measure would end school practices that single out students by disposing of their meal after it has been served, prohibiting them from participating in extracurricular activities, or forcing them to perform chores or other duties not generally required of students.
Nolan’s bill would then go further by requiring the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to report the names of schools that have violated the prohibition, and subsequently make them publicly available online. The measure would also hold violating schools accountable for the effects these policies have on students by requiring schools to use funds originally intended for superintendents or administrators - who create those shaming policies - to pay off and forgive student debt.
“In the greatest food producing nation in the world, no child should ever be punished or denied a healthy and nutritious meal because of their parent’s or guardian’s inability to pay. And yet, anecdotal evidence and news reports from all around the country indicate that the despicable practice of lunch shaming is still a very real problem in many schools,” Nolan said. The simple truth is, publicly shaming, discriminating, or stigmatizing students who don’t have the means or ability to pay for their meals at school is inexcusable. And the fact that shaming can result in students going hungry - affecting their ability to learn - and being punished for things that are out of their control, is unacceptable. This shameful practice needs to end.”
Nolan stressed the need to encourage a system focused on students excelling - pointing out that school nutrition programs are vital to the health and learning outcomes of students. Nolan explained that lunch shaming can prevent some students from getting their only healthy meal of the day.
Nolan’s bill requires:
· All communications relating to debts be directed to the parent or guardian of the student – not the student.
· School districts to review, publish, and distribute – on an annual basis - the policy guidelines relating to owed debts, insufficient funds to purchase meals, available meals, and food programs or resources.
· Each state to submit to the Department of Education a list of any violation by a school or school district, as well as the amount of student meal debt accrued over the previous school year. Nolan’s measure also requires the Secretary to publish a list of those violations online via the Department’s website.
Nolan’s bill also expresses a ‘Sense of Congress’ that the U.S. Department of Agriculture should ensure – to the maximum extent practicable – that applications for free or reduced price lunches are distributed to parents or guardians by July 1st, technical assistance for applying is made available, and school food authorities coordinate with the appropriate and relevant state and federal liaisons.