A new California bill hopes that “lunch shaming” will be a thing of the past as it guarantees that students in schools will receive state-funded lunches, even if their parents have failed to pay meal fees.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law the new piece of legislation, which bans the process in which institutions deny students a meal of their choice due to unpaid fees.
The law amends the 2017 Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act by requiring schools to invalidate policies that ask officials to give alternative meals to students who have unpaid fees, according to Newsom.
He said students who are given these cheaper “alternative” lunches cause them to stick out from their peers.
Middle school students getting lunch items in the cafeteria line.
Newsom said he was inspired by the story of Ryan Kyote, a 9-year-old boy from West Park Elementary who drew attention to how kids at his school were singled out because they didn’t have enough money in their food accounts.
Kyote used his allowance, which totaled $74.80, to pay off his third-grade class’s lunch debt, according to ABC 7.
“‘Creating a California for All’ means ensuring schools are inclusive, accepting, and welcoming of all kids. These bills help move us closer to that goal,” Newsom said in a statement.
Newsom met with Kyoto in August, a meeting the governor declared was an “honor.”
“This amazing young man saved his allowance and used it to pay his classmates’ lunch debt. For Ryan, it was just wrong that some kids couldn’t afford to eat lunch. He’s right about that,” Newsom said at the time.
Steps to limit the so-called “lunch shaming” have taken root in recent years even before SB 265 was introduced by Newsom.
Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted back in June after hearing of Kyote’s story that he would provide “year-round universal school meals” if elected president of the United States.
In June, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D) introduced The No Shame at School Act, which bans identifying students who can’t pay for their school lunch.
“Across this country, students whose families are struggling to afford school meals are being singled out and humiliated at lunchtime,” Omar said at the time, according to the Hill. “These students are subjected to various shaming practices at schools. Some students have been literally branded with stamps.”
Napa Valley Unified School District told ABC 7 that students with a negative lunch account still get a hot meal, with prices ranging from $.30 to $3.25.