Introduces “Hunger-Free Student Bill of Rights” to make lunch available to all students

LANSING, Mich. —Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D–Flint) today announced a bill to put an end to harmful “lunch shaming” policies that some school districts have adopted to address school lunch debts. The legislation creates a “Hunger-Free Student Bill of Rights” to put a stop to practices that stigmatize students who do not have sufficient funds to pay for lunch, like requiring them to wear a wristband, perform chores or swap out their lunch for a substandard meal.

“As a former teacher, I know how hard it is for some families just to get by,” Sen. Ananich said. “To embarrass kids because of debts in their lunch account is cruel and impacts their ability to focus at school. My legislation equips school districts with better ways of handling lunch debts.”

Sen. Ananich was inspired to introduce the legislation after speaking with Harmony Lloyd, a constituent who became vocal on this issue after hearing that a local student had his lunch thrown away in front of other students due to an insufficient balance.

“Kids face so many challenges at school today,” Lloyd said. “Being forced to go hungry or embarrassed by staff because of a financial issue they have no control over is unacceptable. Lunch debts should be handled between the parent and the school, and the child should be kept out of it. Understanding that it’s wrong to physically take a lunch tray out of a child’s hand and announce they have no money should not be a partisan issue, but an issue of simple kindness and humanity. I’m confident we can do better.”

The bill would require schools to provide a USDA reimbursable meal to students with a lunch debt, unless the parents have indicated otherwise. The districts would be prohibited from throwing away meals after they are served due to a student’s inability to pay.

Sen. Ananich’s legislation also authorizes schools to establish a philanthropic fund to help students’ families pay for school meals.

“Thanks to eight years of disinvestment in education by the Republican administration, schools are already strapped for cash. The goal here is to provide school districts alternative ways to make sure lunches are paid for without stigmatizing students,” Sen. Ananich said. “No child should have to go hungry in school, period.”

Senate Bill 1078 has been introduced and referred to the Senate Committee on Education.

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