World

US moves to ban 'lunch shaming'

LOS ANGELES:  In some schools, children are forced to mop cafeteria floors. In others, their hot meals are taken away. In extreme cases, students are sent home with a stamp on their arms that reads "I owe lunch money".

Such scenes have played out in schools across the US as students whose parents fall behind in meal payments endure what is called "lunch shaming".

The practice gained attention at the start of the school year, when a cafeteria worker in Pennsylvania quit in outrage after having to take away a child's hot meal.

The issue resurfaced after the state of New Mexico passed the first-of-its-kind legislation banning lunch shaming.

Several other states are considering similar legislation, hoping to shield needy children from becoming pawns in a quarrel not of their making.

According to a survey last year by the School Nutrition Association, a non-profit group, about three quarters of school districts in the US had unpaid student meal debt at the end of the last school year.

The amount owed ranged from a few thousand dollars in some districts to millions in larger ones, according to the association.

Schools differ in their response to the problem, but typically they provide a child whose parents fall behind in payments a cheese sandwich instead of a hot meal. - AFP

CHILDRENfoodmoney