Over the past year, shocking reports of school “food shaming” have come out across the United States. “Food shaming” refers to when students are denied food, given an alternate meal, forced to complete chores to pay for the meal, or otherwise stigmatized for having school lunch debt that their families are unable to pay off.

In an effort to combat this, Maine legislators are considering L.D. 1684, a measure that would prevent Maine’s public schools from food shaming children whose parents have an overdue lunch balance.

While some opponents of this bill may think that this is just a problem of parents not paying for their children’s lunches, we believe that the accumulation of school lunch debt reflects a larger problem of poverty and food insecurity in Maine.

Of all the New England states, Maine has the highest rate of child food insecurity (21.4 percent), which means that 21.4 percent of children in Maine lack reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

According to Feeding America, in Maine’s 1st Congressional District, 48 percent of children identified as “food insecure” are likely from families that don’t qualify for free and reduced-price lunch. This means that there are many families in Maine experiencing food insecurity who are expected to pay full price for school meals.

For many of these students living in food-insecure homes, school lunch may be the only consistent meal of the day.

While we must think of creative solutions to financially support school lunch programs, shaming students should never be a way to persuade parents to pay their bills. By supporting L.D. 1684, we are helping to ensure that all Maine children attend schools where they are able to access lunch without being stigmatized for debt that is out of their control.

We urge you to support L.D. 1684 and advocate by contacting your local legislators.

Christine Brome

Portland


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.