CHESHIRE, Conn. (WTNH)– There is a push Tuesday to stop ‘lunch shaming.’
Cheshire state representative Liz Linehan from Cheshire said in her district if kids have no money in their account they are kept from going to recess or on field trips.
Lunchtime for many students can be daunting if a family can’t afford the bill.
“We hear stories where kids get notes pinned to their shirts that say you owe $20,” said Linehan.
Lawmakers in Hartford shared sad stories Tuesday at a public hearing for a bill that would stop humiliating tactics of lunch shaming like kids getting an “assigned meal” when they have no lunch money.
The bill would allow any public or private party to donate money to a school district to pay for an account that is in the red.
“Obviously what this exemplifies is how hard it is for middle-class families, working-class families to make ends meet in the state of Connecticut to the point that they can’t even afford their kids’ lunch,” said Sen. Kevin Kelly, Stratford.
An average elementary school lunch runs about $2.75. Nearly $20 a week for one child to eat, just lunch.
“No child should go through the day without adequate food to eat and they should not be shamed or blamed in order to access that,” said Sara Egan, State’s Child Advocate.
The school nutrition association of Connecticut did a survey and it showed some districts had lunch accounts that were in debt as much as $90,000 a year.
Most of the kids whose accounts fell into the red are working families who don’t qualify for a free and reduced meal subsidy because they are right on the edge of income thresholds.
“I don’t know how a family of four in the state of Connecticut can live with $47,000 a year and not receive meal benefits,” said Jeff Sidewater, School Nutrition Association of Connecticut.
Senator Marilyn Moore is the Chair of the committee. She said policies vary by district when a child has no money.
“Maybe the solution is to identify where those people are, where those children are, and create a fund. I don’t think we can take it out of the education fund because schools are already strapped,” said Moore.
Districts are not allowed to use federal food money to pay for drained lunch accounts, which means a growing number are shifting dollars away from education to pay for food.
This legislation is expected to move on to the finance committee for further discussion.