Maine Kids Will No Longer Feel Food Shamed This School Year
An Act To Prevent Food Shaming in Maine's Public Schools passed in April and will go into effect this school year.
The bill was drafted in an effort to keep kids from feeling singled out if they had outstanding lunch bills. Some schools had been addressing the issue of lunch debt by serving alternative meals to the kids, such as cheese sandwiches.
This bill requires schools to serve the same meal the other kids receive, according to the Bangor Daily News, as well as prohibits staff from addressing the overdue balances directly with the students.
The Bangor school district charges between $2.40 and $3 for lunch and as of last year had accrued approximately $2,254 in lunch debt even though half the students qualify for free meals said Bangor Food Services Director Noelle Scott to the Bangor Daily News.
In contrast, RSU 34 (Old Town, Alton, and Bradley) has their lunch debt at approximately $7,000 with 43% of students receiving free lunch. Hermon schools have $10,000 in lunch debt.
Supporters of the bill note that it's not the child's fault there's no money, it could be genuine struggle or carelessness from the parent and that the child should not be punished or be made to feel ashamed.
Food Service Director, Kathy Kittridge of RSU 22 (Hampden, Newburgh, Winterport, and Franklin) expressed concern about the bill stating, "My concern is that it's going to be interpreted as people don't have to pay, and we're going to have a lot of debt, and we're going to have to raise taxes to cover it as part of the school budget."
The kids could still lose other privileges under this new law, such as having caps and gowns withheld at graduation.
The Department of Agriculture will develop an accessible set of guidelines for addressing the issue and recommends the implementation of an online payment system.