Washington State Says "No" to Lunch Shaming in Schools

Jun 01, 18

Photo of bowl of pasta
On March 27th, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bill 2610 into law. The bill, known as the “Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights’ Act,” requires schools to provide a hot meal to all students who request one, regardless of their ability to pay.

This bill was passed in response to reports that WA State students were singled out if their parent or guardian had fallen behind on paying the student’s meal bill. Known as “lunch shaming,” the practice ranges from putting a wrist band or stamp on the child’s hand (to remind the parent to pay), to throwing away the hot meal that the child has been served and either replacing it with a cold meal, or in some cases not providing a meal at all.

In a press release, Rep. Strom Peterson who sponsored the bill said, “Children should not go hungry or be humiliated because they cannot afford lunch that day… This new law will help ensure that our school districts are not stigmatizing kids and that our state’s students are getting the nutrition they need to succeed in school.”

Under this new bill, school districts must notify parents of a negative lunch balance within 10 days. Students can carry a note or letter to their parents, but any communication regarding delinquent funds cannot be directed to the student. As another requirement of the bill, schools must ensure that students and families are connected to available free and reduced priced lunch programs. Schools must now “exhaust all options to directly certify the student for free or reduced-price meals.”

Lunch shaming is a nation-wide issue, and many states are passing similar bills to prevent it. At the federal level, changes have been proposed to the 2019 House Appropriations Bill that would protect children from lunch shaming and leave them out of payment discussions entirely.

Luckily for WSIPC school districts, our Purchasing Partner e-Funds for Schools provides a solution that empowers schools to reach out to parents without burdening children. E-Funds for Schools (which integrates with Skyward Food Service) allows parents to choose to be notified whenever their student’s lunch balance reaches a low lunch balances, and to re-load the student’s balance in real-time via a mobile device or desktop.

To learn more about e-Funds for Schools, contact WSIPC at 425-349-6600 or info@wsipc.org.