The Democrats in New Mexico’s congressional delegation want to end “lunch-shaming” nationwide.
The members introduced legislation in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to end the practice. The Anti-Lunch Shaming Act would ban schools from singling out children for their parent’s inability to pay for school lunch. Some schools make children whose parents can’t afford lunch wear wristbands or stamps on their hands or perform extra chores.
Earlier this year, New Mexico became the first state in the nation to outlaw the practice. The legislation, which was sponsored by state Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla and signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez, received national attention.
Padilla called the legislation “critical to taking our students’ focus off of their stomachs and placing it on their studies.”
The legislation passed the Senate on a 30-7 vote and passed the House unanimously.
The federal bill would also require schools to speak to parents about any school debt, not the student themselves, and would simplify the process for applying for free or reduced lunches.
“Shaming students or requiring extra chores from kids who need help paying for lunch is inexcusable — not only does it stigmatize our most vulnerable children, it takes away from time they can be spending on schoolwork or with their peers,” U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said. “This meal shaming can sometimes stand in the way of students’ only healthy meal of the day — we can’t expect our kids to succeed in the classroom if they are hungry.”
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham said that the bill “will put an end to these draconian practices and help ensure that students can focus on their studies without looking over their shoulder to see their friends pointing fingers.”,
In addition to Lujan Grisham and Rep. Ben Ray Luján, three other members of the House have signed on, including Rep. Rodney Davis, an Illinois Republican.
Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, joined Udall and Heinrich a a co-sponsor.
Luján said he was proud that New Mexico ended the practice in the state.
“The humiliation inflicted on children who are late paying their school lunch bills — or don’t have the means to pay those bills — is a national disgrace,” he said.
Rep. Martin Heinrich said hungry children aren’t able focus or learn as well as other students.
“Stigmatizing or shaming students for not being able to afford lunch is unacceptable,” Heinrich said. “Nothing is more important than improving the well-being of our children and I will continue to work to find solutions that ensure our students can grow and thrive.”