Local school officials and legislators hope to end lunch shaming

Children today face so many challenges that the hope is that school can become a bit of a safe haven but a relatively new phenomenon called lunch shaming is creating yet another issue. Some schools are publicly embarrassing students for things they have no control over but Bill Anderson found both sensitive school officials and legislators who are trying to help, For Goodness Sake.

FOX 29's Bill Anderson keeps hearing stories about something called lunch shaming in schools that made him wonder when did embarrassing kids who's parents can't pay for food become a thing?

"It's a concept I never knew about until I had a constituent in my district who wrote me a letter and she was explaining how her child was being shunned and shamed in school," New Jersey Assemblyman Dave Rible said.

It sounds ridiculous but as Anderson visited New Jersey Assemblyman Dave Rible he explained that some schools have taken to punishing kids if their parents get behind on paying for their meals.

"The account went low or went to zero didn't know it and the child went in line to get lunch when they swiped the card there was nothing in the balance and the lunch got thrown away."

Throwing away the food rather than feeding children is just one example of why Assemblyman Ribel joined local and national legislators introducing bills to stop lunch shaming. Parents will still have to pay debts, schools just can't publicly humiliate the kids because of it.

"Some schools are making them do chores so we'll give you your lunch if you clean the tables. This is just common sense legislation that unfortunately we have to do because adults aren't acting like adults in school," Ribel said.

Lunch shaming is not an issue at the Mennies School in Vineland. Children are fed regardless of their lunch account status but like a lot of schools they have had parents get behind on their accounts.

"Some years we've been up to about $6,000. This year we're around $1,500 in back lunches that are in arrears," Principal Lisa Arena said.

Payment can be a challenge for parents but they look for other ways to address it, including an anonymous donor who heard about lunch shaming spreading nationally and wanted to help.

"We had a grandparent of a Mennies student come in and she took out her checkbook and wrote a check for several hundred dollars because she wanted to help some of our students pay down their lunch balances," Assistant Principal Kristen Speakman said.

Mennie's staff told Anderson they prefer to work together rather than embarrass kids.

"I think it affects the kids. They can't help pay the bill," social worker Wendi O'Donnell said.

Parents who can pay their bills should but as adults can we follow Mennies School and Assemblyman Ribels lead and work on ways to help them rather than publicly shame their kids. For Goodness Sake.