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let our students eat

End Lunch Shaming


What is Lunch Shaming and why should we care?

Lunch shaming is a term used to describe situations in which students are publicly singled out and stigmatized during lunch, usually through being provided an alternative meal, branding (with stickers or stamps), or having lunch withheld, because their parents are delinquent to the school. Through no fault of their own, students are humiliated and sometimes deprived of food at school. Schools are supposed to be considered a safe space. There is a strong focus on bullying from other students, but lunch shaming is a type of adult bullying. It's basically school-sanctioned humiliation. Students are being punished for something they did not do and cannot help.

Who does this effect?

The Department of Agriculture published a report in 2014 showing that almost half of all school districts practice lunch shaming; half of those studied gave out a cold sandwich instead of a hot meal, with three percent denying food all together, in an effort to pressure parents into paying their delinquent bill. Besides being given an alternative subpar inferior meal or throwing their hot meal in the garbage, students are also sometimes asked to perform manual labor in the cafeteria, or are branded with a stamp saying, “I need lunch money”.

Perhaps the biggest problem with lunch shaming is that it is stigmatizing for the student. Every student participates in lunch, therefore it is nearly impossible for their peers, teachers, and school staff not to notice the food they eat. Students that are lunch shamed are forced to display that they may not be able to afford a standard lunch, to be known as a “cheese sandwich kid”, a modern day “Scarlet Letter”. Other options for the student are to find food to bring to school from home or choose not to eat at all. This stigma can lead to more problems such as bullying, shame itself, or poor nutrition. Poor nutrition can also affect overall student performance in the classroom by making it harder to listen, pay attention, and learn. When lunch shaming involved providing students with a less nutritious lunch or with no lunch at all, it can only contribute to food insecurity, food insufficiency, and problems in the classroom.

The surprising victims of lunch shaming
The impact of lunch shaming may be felt more so by students who are close to poverty than by those who are already living in poverty. Working class families who live paycheck to paycheck and, unable to acquire wealth, struggle to afford basic essential items such as housing, food, and clothing. These are the same families that do not qualify for free or reduced lunch due to their income being over the poverty line threshold. This is where the failure lies. Lunch shaming isn’t just reserved for those hovering around the poverty level as it can include any student that has a certain low balance.

You would be hard pressed to find one person that likes the idea of lunch shaming. While some may consider it a “necessary evil”, many are not comfortable with it. Which begs the question . . . why is lunch shaming still happening?

Our country is better than this.  Let our students eat and let the adults develop a plan to pay for it. 

"I lived in Louisiana as a kid and you had to go through the line to get in the lunch room. One day I didn’t have any money and they jerked my food away and yelled at me in front of my classmates. Then they sat me down at a special table with all the other kids who couldn’t buy food that day and everyone pointed and laughed from the other tables."

Our Movement

What can you do to help?

Our plan of attack is pretty simple.  Currently S. 4602 and H.R. 8477, both titled the "No Shame At School Act of 2022", are sitting in the Senate and House waiting to be discussed.  We are asking citizens to contact the legislators that sit on these committees and request they take action on this important piece of legislation. Click here to take action. This bill needs to be discussed! While some states have ended lunch shaming on their own, there are still a number of states that still actively lunch shame. 


We need your help!

We've made it easy! You can copy and paste our message or print our letter to mail. It will only take a few minutes of your time

Did lunch shaming
happen to you?

We'd love to hear your story. If you are currently experiencing lunch shaming or have experienced it in the past, your story needs to be heard. The more we have coming forward the more it can help.

News across the country

Lunch shaming has been making headlines for a few years now.  Check out this collection of stories!
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