‘Hunger-Free Student Bill of Rights’ bill introduced in Michigan Senate

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    Students from lower-income families are losing access to lunch and being subject to public embarrassment by schools because of it. 

    That’s according to state Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) who seeks an end to “lunch shaming” policies in schools such as being given barebones meals, having to wear wristbands or performing chores in exchange for meals.

    Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich | Nick Manes

    A former teacher at Flint Community Schools, Ananich said in a news release that new legislation would act as a “Hunger-Free Student Bill of Rights,” requiring schools to provide a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reimbursable meal to students with a lunch debt.

    “We cannot expect a child to succeed in the classroom if they are hungry or have been publicly shamed for not having enough money in their lunch account,” Ananich said in a statement. “No child should go hungry at school, and my goal is to equip school districts with better options for dealing with lunch debt.”

    Senate Bill 668 would also allow schools to use philanthropic funds to cover the costs of meals and remove the burden from underfunded school districts.

    Ananich said he was inspired to introduce the legislation after a conversation with Harmony Lloyd, a mom who heard one student was publicly shamed by having his lunch thrown away in front of his peers because of an insufficient lunch balance.

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    “Kids face so many challenges at school today,” 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,” Lloyd continued. “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.”

    Anna Liz Nichols
    Anna Liz Nichols covers criminal justice, the environment and the Legislature. She has reported for several publications, including MLive and Michigan State University’s award-winning student paper, the State News, where she covered the many tendrils of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. She is finishing up a degree in journalism and environmental studies at Michigan State University, graduating May 2020.