IMAGE: School lunch

(AP Photo/Mary Esch, File)

A local lawmaker has proposed a bill to stop “lunch shaming” policies at Michigan school districts.

Senator Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) announced the bill Thursday called “Hunger-Free Student Bill of Rights” to make lunch available to all students.

Ananich said some school districts have adopted policies that punish students who do not have sufficient funds to pay for lunch, such as requiring them to wear a wristband, perform chores, or swap out their lunch for a substandard meal.

“As a former teacher, I know how hard it is for some families just to get by,” Ananich said. “To embarrass kids because of debts in their lunch account is cruel and impacts their ability to focus at school. My legislation equips school districts with better ways of handling lunch debts.”

Ananich said the bill was inspired by a local student who had his lunch thrown away in front of other students because he didn’t have enough money in his account.

"Kids face so many challenges at school today,” Harmony Lloyd said. “Being forced to go hungry or embarrassed by staff because of a financial issue they have no control over is unacceptable. Lunch debts should be handled between the parent and the school, and the child should be kept out of it. Understanding that it's wrong to physically take a lunch tray out of a child's hand and announce they have no money should not be a partisan issue, but an issue of simple kindness and humanity. I'm confident we can do better."

The bill would require schools to provide a USDA reimbursable meal to students with a lunch debt, unless the parents have indicated otherwise. The districts would no longer be allowed to throw away meals after they are served due to a student's inability to pay.

The bill would also allow schools to create a “philanthropic fund” to help students’ families pay for school meals.

Senate Bill 1078 has been introduced and referred to the Senate Committee on Education.

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