Proposed bills seek to end ‘meal shaming’ in public schools

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Massachusetts lawmakers are being urged to approve legislation that would prevent school districts from denying hot lunches to students who don’t have the money to pay for them.

The Legislature’s education committee heard testimony on Tuesday from advocates who called for an end to what critics call “meal shaming,” for the embarrassment it can cause children.

Under policies in effect in many school districts, cafeteria workers are instructed to throw out a hot meal served to a child and substitute an “alternative” meal – often a cold cheese sandwich – if their parents have fallen behind on payments on their school meal account.

Several other states including California, New York and Pennsylvania have recently adopted rules targeting meal shaming.

The committee said the bill proposed for Massachusetts needs further study.

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