Lunches for U.S. public school students were free during the pandemic. But that program has ended, and some parents are struggling to cover the cost. "In some places still, there's the practice of lunch shaming, where kids who have balances that are due for their reduced price school meals, have their meals thrown away in front of their classmates, and sometimes are publicly shamed by putting a message taped to their chest, or some other way that shames the child and shames the family," said Josh Protas of an anti-hunger group. More than a dozen states now have laws that prohibit shaming over school meal debt, and four states have enacted universal meals programs for kids.
Class discussion: What is your school’s policy for collecting money for school lunches? Do school officials contact parents directly, or do they make students ask their families to pay for the lunches? Should any student be shamed over unpaid lunch fees? Why or why not? Have you ever seen someone teased by other students or school staff over getting free lunches? How about classmates who can’t afford the latest clothes, cell phones or other goods? Do you ever feel like you can’t afford to “keep up” with other students in your school? Have you ever avoided associating with people with less money? Has your family ever struggled to pay its bills? Is there any reason to be ashamed for having a tough time financially?