State legislation would ban lunch shaming in schools and allow some low-income students to receive free school meals.
The Assembly and Senate Education Committee this week approved three measures aimed at making school meals available to all students.
The Hunger-Free Student Bills of Rights, A-4856/S-2979, would forbid schools from publicly identifying or shaming students who may have lunch debt. Schools would also be prohibited from serving students alternative meals.
This measure comes amid growing reports of New Jersey schools denying students access to extra-curricular activities or serving a meal that is different from what other students are receiving. This bill now heads to the Senate and Assembly budget committees for consideration.
Another measure, A-5855,/4200 would provide $4.5 million in state funds to pay the cost of reduced-price meals.
The legislation, sponsored by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Sen. Teresa Ruiz, could also help reduce unpaid meal fees in districts. This legislation is especially important as the minimum wage rises. This will likely push more families into the reduced-price category, even though they still struggle financially.
A third measure,A-59033,S-4257 would require every district to establish a “School Meal Fund” and accept donations to pay down lunch debt.
These are great steps forward in ensuring that all children have the nutrition they need to be healthy and succeed in school.
We’ll keep you posted on the bill’s progress.