Anya Howard, Indiana
My six-year-old granddaughter, Anya Howard, is a great kid and enjoys school. So one day last year, when she came home crying, I was confused and concerned — more so when she explained what happened.
That day, my granddaughter went through the lunch line and got a hot lunch like she always did. But when she got to the front, her food was taken from her because she didn’t have enough money in her account.
We had the money, but never even got a notice. Not once. Regardless, that shouldn’t be her burden, and it shouldn’t be any child’s burden. The faculty forced her to do a “walk of shame” to the back of the line to get an alternative cold lunch.
Her classmates laughed at her, and even though my granddaughter handled it well, she was heartbroken. She was “lunch shamed,” a cruel practice punishing students for things they don’t control.
This is not a one-time thing. It’s a nationwide problem. And it’s a result of outdated, unfair federal laws governing school meals. Students across the country get shamed, families go into debt, and lives are impacted forever. It doesn’t have to be this way.
No kid should ever get embarrassed like that, it’s just wrong. It’s been proven that students perform better when they have school meals. School meals should be provided at no charge to all children in grades K-12, just like bus rides and textbooks. By making lunch free for all kids, no single student can be targeted and shamed. It’s just the fair thing to do.
Due to COVID-19, millions of parents are out of work and struggling to put food on the table through no fault of their own. Not to mention, many schools are operating on inconsistent schedules and facing budget reductions. This isn’t a local school district or state problem – we need a new solution from the federal level immediately.
Putting families in debt over school lunch and shaming students because of school lunch debt must be abolished. That is why I’m calling on USDA Secretary Perdue, Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, Chair of The United States Senate Committee on Agriculture, Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow — the Ranking Member of the committee — Representative Bobby Scott from Virginia and Representative Virginia Foxx from North Carolina, to establish a free school meals pilot program for the 2020-21 school year to provide daily meals, FREE OF CHARGE, to all students upon the reopening of schools. They can do this by investing some of the COVID-19 relief money in our children.
It’s the right thing to do.