Emhoff Massachusetts

Douglas Emhoff, center, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, assists with spilt milk while serving lunch to pre-schoolers during a visit to Mother Hubbard Pre-School Center, Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, in Milford, Mass. 

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(The Center Square) – A bill that would end school cafeteria practices that lead to what is termed “lunch shaming” has been signed by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

Designed to prohibit schools from throwing away or stripping down meals of students who can’t pay, the bill would ensure that no one is turned away and all students have access to the same food.

“They get lectured to in front of other kids, saying ‘You don’t have the money,’ or ‘You don’t have the plan,’ or ‘You’re on a welfare card and you don’t get to have the extra apple that goes with the banana,’ or something like that,” Glenn Koocher, executive director of Massachusetts Association of School Committees, told The Center Square. “We can all tell some of those stories, and we also are aware of those kids who for one reason or another unfortunately but legitimately don’t have the money for lunch.”

This bill would make sure no student is humiliated for that, he said.

“It’s a private matter, so you don’t need someone exclaiming you can’t have lunch because you’re too poor or you’re not wealthy enough or you didn’t bring your social services identification card or money with you,” Koocher said.

For schools in which 60% or more of student’s families qualify for free meals, the bill also requires them to provide free meals to all students using federal funds, the Boston Herald reported.

In a statement, State Rep. Andres Vargas, D-Haverhill, who filed the bill, pointed out Massachusetts faced “the largest relative increase of food-insecure individuals in the nation” when the pandemic commenced, as reported by the Herald.

Nutritious food is important, Koocher notes.

“It’s just very difficult to learn if you’re hungry,” Koocher said. “It’s very difficult to stay focused if you’re thinking more about, ‘I wish I could eat. When is my next meal?’ then it’s important for me to learn my multiplication tables.”

He also pointed out the devastating and long-term effects of humiliation on students.

“There’s no reason to shame the kids at that level,” Koocher said. “It destroys their self-esteem to be embarrassed like that. Think about it – anyone will tell you, any behaviorist will tell you, the worst thing you can do is to humiliate a child – they will never forget.”

This article originally ran on thecentersquare.com.


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