A couple of state lawmakers are speaking out after reports that students at a school in southeastern Minnesota, who have negative lunch account balances, are being shamed, while food is being wasted.
According to a story by KTTC-TV, students who go up for lunch, but have a negative balance of one-cent or below, have to watch their food being scooped from their tray and dumped into a bucket. They are then given a sandwich, which is billed at $1 on their account.
The story says the policy has led some students to no longer eat, because they don’t know what their lunch account balance is and don’t want to be embarrassed.
State Representative Nels Pierson (R-Stewartville) says he’s saddened to hear that students are feeling shamed in the lunch line. “Through no fault of their own, these kids get set apart from their classmates, and put simply, that shouldn’t happen,” said Pierson.
Representative Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth), who previously authored legislation to specifically halt the practice of shaming students who lacked sufficient funds for school lunches, says she wants to tighten the language around these practices to include withholding funds from school districts that choose to not comply.
“This is unacceptable and amounts to school sanctioned bullying of kids,” said Anderson.
A GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the students whose accounts are in the negative has thus far raised about $3,000.
The debt from the unpaid lunches in Stewartville schools is said to be around $10,000, in a district with a $25-million annual budget.