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California Bill Takes Aim At School Lunch 'Shaming'

SACRAMENTO (KPIX 5) -- A bill moving through California's legislature takes aim at a practice often called "food shaming," when school children are treated differently when their parents or guardians fail to pay meal fees.

Senator Robert Hertzberg (D - Van Nuys) wrote SB 250, called the Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act of 2017. It would require schools to ensure that any student whose bill remains unpaid is not shamed or treated any differently than a student whose bills are paid in full. School employees and volunteers would be prohibited from disciplining the child, or denying or delaying a meal. Schools would also be required to put together a plan to collect the money that's owed.

"You've got kids today who go to school and they get their hot lunches taken away from them because their parents haven't paid the bill, and they get replaced -- here in Los Angeles where I'm from -- with half a sandwich and four ounces of juice," Hertzberg told KPIX 5. "What I'm trying to do is just readjust the law in a way that says you can't do that."

"Go after the parents," Hertzberg continued. "Collect money from the parents, it's no problem. Take money out of their bank accounts or whatever the case may be. But don't put these kids in a situation where you're shaming them. Don't let the failures of the parents find their impact on the kids in front of their friends like that."

SB 250 passed the Senate Education Committee last month and the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.

Also last week, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez signed legislation to outlaw food shaming there. The New York Times reports the Hunger-Free Students' Bill of Rights orders schools to work with parents and guardians to pay the meal bills or sign up for assistance.


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