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Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham

Representing the 1st District of New Mexico

Rep. Lujan Grisham Leads Letter to USDA to an End to Lunch Shaming

Jul 12, 2018
Press Release

Rep. Lujan Grisham Leads Letter to USDA to an End to Lunch Shaming

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM-01) and Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IA-13) led a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Perdue demanding that he issue guidance to schools to end lunch shaming.

“No children should ever have to go to the school cafeteria and be publicly humiliated because they cannot afford their lunch,” Representative Lujan Grisham (D-NM) said. “No students should be asked to do chores in front of their peers, made to wear wristbands or handstamps, or have their lunch thrown out as their friends look on.  Unfortunately, regardless of recent moves toward ending lunch shaming, it is still widespread and affects students in cafeterias across the country every day.”

“We want schools to work with parents, not target the student, to address outstanding lunch payments," said Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL). “This is an issue that should remain between the parents and the school. Many schools have good policies in place to ensure students are not targeted, but some do not. We want to work with the USDA to provide guidance that will prevent lunch shaming and instead help schools develop processes that address outstanding lunch payments without stigmatizing the most vulnerable children.”

The letter, signed by sixty-nine U.S. Representatives says “Fortunately, there are ways in which the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) can work together with Congress to end this discrimination.  As such, we urge your office, together with Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), to issue guidance encouraging schools to end the practice of lunch shaming.

The representatives added that they “do not want to unduly burden states, localities, or schools.  However, no child should be responsible for meal debt nor should they be shamed.  Instead, all communications regarding meal debt ought to be directly between a school and a student’s parents.”

The letter was signed by: Rep. Lujan Grisham (NM-01), Rep. Davis (IL-13), Rep. Barragán (CA-44), Rep. Bost (IL-12), Rep. Jayapal (WA-7), Rep. Fitzpatrick (PA-08), Rep. McKinely (WV-01), Rep. Nolan (MN-08), Rep. O’Halleran (AZ-01), Rep. Hastings (FL-23), Rep. Napolitano (CA-32), Rep. Ryan (OH-13), Rep. DeFazio (OR-04), Rep. Jeffries (NY-08), Rep. Panetta (CA-20), Rep. Garamendi (CA-03), Rep. Rush (IL-01), Rep. Espaillat (NY-13), Rep. Lieu (CA-33), Rep. Lipinski (IL-03), Rep. Brady (PA-01), Rep. Lowenthal (CA-47), Rep. Scott (GA-13), Rep. Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Rep. DeLauro (CT-03), Rep. Meeks (NY-05), Rep. Bishop (GA-02), Rep. Clarke (NY-09), Rep. Vela (TX-34), Rep. Foster (IL-11), Rep. Hanabusa (HI-01), Rep. Holmes Norton (DC), Rep. Takano (CA-41), Rep. Fudge (OH-11), Rep. Smith (WA-09), Rep. McGovern (MA-02), Rep. McCollum (MN-04), Rep. Larsen (WA-02), Rep. Moore (WA-04), Rep. Gallego (AZ-07), Rep. Carbajal (CA-24), Rep. Pingree (ME-01), Rep. Maloney (NY-18), Rep. Serrano (NY-15), Rep. Carson (IN-07), Rep. Deutch (FL-22), Rep. Lamb (PA-18), Rep. Collins (NY-27), Rep. Maloney (NY-12), Rep. Titus (NV-01), Rep. Blumenauer (OR-03), Rep. Lofgren (CA-19), Rep. Luján (NM-03), Rep. Soto (FL-09), Rep. Schakowsky (D-09), Rep. DeSaulnier (CA-11), Rep. Clark (MA-05), Rep. Cárdenas (CA-29), Rep. Gutiérrez (IL-04), Rep. Capuano (MA-07), Rep. MacArthur (NJ-03), Rep. Cicilline (RI-01), Rep. Langevin (RI-02), Rep. Raskin (MD-08), Rep. Price (NC-04), Rep. Shea-Porter (NH-01), Rep. Correa (CA-46), Rep. Katko (NY-24), Bronley (CA-26).

 

TEXT OF LETTER

Dear Secretary Perdue,

As you know, lunch shaming is the practice of publicly humiliating, embarrassing, or calling attention to the fact that some students are unable to pay for their meals at school.  Holding children accountable is unreasonable and cruel.  No students should be asked to do chores in front of their peers, made to wear wristbands or handstamps, or have their lunch thrown out as their friends look on.

For many students, meal shaming stands between them and their only meal of the day. The importance of access to school meals is the reason we strongly support the National School Lunch Program and the Summer Food Service Program.  School meals are vital to the success of our children, and it is unthinkable that every day thousands of students across the country are singled out because they lack the funds to afford a meal.

Section 9(b)(10) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1758(b)(10)) prohibits the “…physical segregation of or other discrimination against any child eligible for a free lunch or a reduced price lunch…nor shall there be any overt identification of any child by special tokens or tickets, announced or published list of names, or by other means.”  Lunch shaming, by calling attention to a lack of funds in a student’s account, is an overt identification that discriminates.

Fortunately, there are ways in which the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) can work together with Congress to end this discrimination.  As such, we urge your office, together with Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), to issue guidance encouraging schools to end the practice of lunch shaming.

Furthermore, we understand and are concerned about the heavy burden of unpaid meal debt, an issue facing three-quarters of the school districts throughout the United States.  We do not want to unduly burden states, localities, or schools.  However, no child should be responsible for meal debt nor should they be shamed.  Instead, all communications regarding meal debt ought to be directly between a school and a student’s parents.

The importance of the school meal programs administered through USDA cannot be understated. We stand ready to work with you to issue guidance prohibiting lunch shaming and to take an important step to once and for all end this heinous practice. Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Michelle Lujan Grisham                    Rodney Davis

Member of Congress                          Member of Congress