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Lunch Shaming

Touch the Soil News #700 (feature photo – typical Washington D.C. school lunch – CC SA 2.0)

When a child cannot afford to pay their lunch bill and are past due on what is owed the school, Katy bar the door as to what can happen. It is called Lunch Shaming when school policies reach out to shame the child in front of their peers. The practice is hitting national news and the Federal Government is looking at doing something. Here are some tidbits about the Lunch Shaming universe.


  1. In 2015, a Colorado cafeteria worker says she was fired for personally paying for a first grader’s meal.
  2. A Pennsylvania lunch lady quit in protest after being forced to take food away from a student who was $24 in debt.
  3. Some schools serve alternate meal such as a cheese sandwich in a brown paper bag if a student’s debt hits $15. It is a stigma that other students quickly pick up on and leave the shamed student to be embarrassed.
  4. Withholding lunch from children who are in debt.
  5. If served a lunch before determining the student is too much in debt, school lunch employees are ordered to take the lunch and throw it away – humiliating the student..
  6. Estimates are that half of school districts in the U.S. engage in some form of lunch shaming.
  7. Students who can’t pay get half a cheese sandwich.
  8. Some students who can’t pay are stamped for everyone to see.
  9. Some students are forced to clean lunch tables.


Unfortunately, the lack of financial power that is shaming parents has trickled into the schools. It is estimated that 76 percent of America’s school districts have kids with school lunch debt, according to the School Nutrition Association. One in five is the number of children who come from food-insecure households in America.

Recently the state of New Mexico passed legislation prohibiting any form of lunch shaming.

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