School is filled with opportunities for growth and exploration, but for many kids, it’s also filled with a variety of stressors. Some kids struggle with learning difficulties, others cope daily with bullies. Many students whose families struggle financially are forced to bear that burden, facing harsh consequences for things out of their control. Minnesota advocates are targeting school lunch programs to put an end to some of that stress once and for all, allowing kids to simply be kids.
Colleen Moriarty spent roughly 10 years working towards a better school lunch system, and recently, her efforts paid off. Lawmakers in Minnesota approved life-changing changes to the way school lunch programs work, taking a massive step towards ending a phenomenon referred to as “lunch shaming.”
“Ten years ago we heard about snapping rubber bands on kids’ wrists, collection agencies going after families…lunches being dumped in front of kids,” Moriarty told FOX-9. “Or, you get to enter your code for lunch and they say ‘oh no, I’ll take that lunch from you…you can just have this cheese sandwich …or you can have this cheese sandwich and eat it in the principal’s office.’”
Lunch shaming impacted students well beyond the confines of the school cafeteria. Most kids see lunchtime as a break from the school day, a time to relax and unwind with friends. But for students subjected to lunch shaming, entering the cafeteria is anxiety-inducing. We all have vivid memories of moments we felt embarrassed in front of our peers, but experiencing that magnitude of shame regularly takes an emotional toll.
As of now, school lunches are offered free of charge until the end of the 2022 school year. Advocates are working to make this change permanent, but until then, new legislation outlines the unacceptable treatment of students with lunch debt. No identifying markers such as stickers, no taking back lunches – essentially, no shaming kids for their inability to pay for lunch.
To most, this likely seems like common sense. However, the long-standing practice of lunch shaming demonstrates that it’s anything but. Thanks to advocates like Colleen Moriarty, Minnesota is setting an example of respect and compassion. Hopefully, this is the first step of many to end the practice permanently across the board.