Serving students in lunch-debt cold sandwiches is more common than you might think
This week, a k-12 school district in Rhode Island made headlines when it was revealed that plans were in place to serve students in lunch-debt cold sandwiches instead of hot food. The district reversed their decision after criticism, but the issue reignited the debate over the practice of ‘lunch shaming’.
‘Lunch shaming’ is the practice of either serving students cold meals or no food when they owe a lunch debt. According to the USDA, 45% of schools will serve a cold meal in this situation, with 3% providing no food (as of 2017). The practice is meant to encourage parents to pay off these debts.
The main federal program for low-cost or free lunches, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) helps serve over 100,000 schools. While the program serves 30.4 million children each day, not all students are covered. The NSLP uses the federal poverty level in all states except Hawaii & Alaska, with the Washington Post noting the issue this causes in high cost-of-living areas.