Sen. Ananich Seeks an End to School “Lunch Shaming”

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 legislation to 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 — like requiring them to wear a wristband, perform chores or swap out their lunch for a substandard meal — who do not have sufficient funds to pay for lunch.

“We cannot expect a child to succeed in the classroom if they are hungry or have been publicly shamed for not having enough money in their lunch account,” Sen. Ananich, a former teacher, said. “For some kids, lunch is the only certain meal of the day. No child should go hungry at school, and my goal is to equip school districts with better options for dealing with lunch debt.”

Sen. Ananich’s inspiration for the legislation came from a conversation with Harmony Lloyd, a local mom who spoke up about 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.

The proposed legislation also authorizes the use of philanthropic funds to help cover the costs and avoid burdening cash-strapped school districts even further.

“My bill gives school districts options that will minimize budget impact — like providing federally-reimbursable meals to kids and allowing good actors in the community to help cover the funds — rather than forcing schools to absorb lunch debts into their own limited budgets,” Sen. Ananich said. “Let’s agree to make sure kids are fed first, and let the schools and parents work out the details later. No child should have to go hungry in school, period.”

Senate Bill 668 has been introduced and referred to the Senate Committee on Education.

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