‘Lunch Shaming’ Targeted in Bill as Legislators Aim to End Punitive Hunger Games


The Washington State House of Representatives recently approved a bill that would ban the practice of school “lunch shaming” and ensure that every student is afforded a lunch on school days. 

Known as the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights, House Bill 2610 passed the House by a vote of 59-39. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Strom Peterson, D-Edmonds, and was drafted in response to reports of students across the state being subjected to public identification, or stigmatizing practices, for being unable to pay for a school meal. That practice is commonly known as “lunch shaming.”

Some schools have taken to implementing lunch shaming as a repercussion for students who are unable to pay new or existing meal charges. Those students are often singled out in the cafeteria, including being provided with cheap alternative meals that do not comply with any nutritional standards. Those melas are often served in brown paper bags in order to distinguish them from standard cafeteria meals. Other reports have noted students who have had their meals taken away and thrown out after it was discovered that they could not pay. A press release noted that other penalties have included ‘conspicuous debt reminders, such as hand stamps.”

The Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights not only aims to abolish lunch shaming but also requires schools to provide healthy, balanced meals to students, regardless of their ability to pay. School districts would also be required to communicate directly with parents about debts, rather than forcing students to serve as middlemen. 

“Children should not go hungry or be humiliated because they cannot afford lunch that day,” said Peterson, in the press release. 

“We have the opportunity to make sure that our school districts are not stigmatizing kids and that our state’s students are getting the nutrition they need to succeed in school.”

House Bill 2610 has been introduced in the Senate and is now awaiting further consideration. Additional details can be found online at http://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?Year=2017&BillNumber=2610.