Massachusetts Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Bills to Ban ‘Meal Shaming' in Public Schools

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering bills that would prohibit school districts from denying hot lunches to students who don't have the money to pay for them.

The Legislature's education committee heard testimony on Tuesday from advocates who called for an end to what some critics call "meal shaming" because of the embarrassment it can bring to students.

While many low-income students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals, others can be denied food or given "alternative" meals — such as a cold cheese sandwich — if their parents fall behind in payments to student meal accounts.

Parent Stephanie Rosenquist told NBC10 Boston she was shocked when her son told her his hot breakfast had been taken away at his Oxford school. She says she owed just under $11 on his meal payment plan.

"The cashier realized that he did not have funds available on his account. She took the tray of food out of his hands and threw it in the garbage so my child went hungry that morning," Rosenquist recalled.

The legislation would establish a uniform policy in place of varying approaches now taken by school districts.

Laws targeting "meal shaming" have been adopted in several states in recent months, including New York and California.

Tuesday, the committee said the bill proposed for Massachusetts needed further study.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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