Latest Success in Governor's Comprehensive "No Student Goes Hungry" Program
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced all schools in New York State have adopted plans to end "meal shaming" of students who do not have money for lunch. This is the latest success in the Governor's "No Student Goes Hungry" program, which addresses food insecurity by expanding access to free breakfast and farm-fresh foods as well as ensuring all students have access to school meals without fear of shame. The program also includes $1.5 million to expand the successful Farm-to-School program. To date, all required schools have successfully adopted and submitted a plan to the New York State Education Department that will address how they prohibit meal shaming and how meal debt will be communicated to parents while ensuring every student is still provided a meal without humiliation or shame. All school plans have been posted on the schools' websites.
"No child should ever go hungry - especially at school - and students should never be humiliated or denied a well-rounded meal just because they can't pay," Governor Cuomo said. "This significant milestone in our No Student Goes Hungry Program will ensure all children get a healthy meal in school even if they don't have lunch money and provide a supportive learning environment so every student can succeed."
"We're committed to providing students with the nutritious food they need in school with our 'No Student Goes Hungry' program," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "We will not tolerate meal shaming in New York, and school districts across the state have submitted plans to address the issue. We want to ensure that all children have the resources they need to succeed inside and outside the classroom, and this is another step in our efforts to enhance educational opportunities and quality of life for New York families."
Meal shaming is a disgraceful practice in some schools where children are publicly humiliated in front of their peers by adults for not having money for lunch. In many cases, these students are forced to wear a sticker or bracelet, or have their name called over the loud speaker. In other cases, these students are given alternative, lesser quality lunches, such as a cold cheese sandwich, when other students get hot lunches. In examples from other states, some children are simply being denied food if they cannot pay.
The Governor's 2018-2019 budget amended the New York State Education Law to require all public, non-public and charter schools that require students to pay for a school meal to develop a written plan to ensure that a student with unpaid meal charges is not denied a meal or treated differently than a student who does not have unpaid school meal charges. The schools were required to submit their completed Prohibition Against Meal Shaming plans to the New York State Education Department. Schools and districts already participating in programs that provide free meals to all students, such as the Community Eligibility Provision, were not required to submit plans.
The schools must provide students with the meal of their choice. The schools are also prohibited from engaging in other actions that would shame students or cause embarrassment due to insufficient funds for a school meal or having outstanding school meal debt. The plans require that all applicable staff are trained and fully understand how to properly implement the policy.
Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa said, "Schools across the state are working every day to create an environment where children can grow, learn and feel safe. When students don't have the burden of worrying about where their next meal is going to come from or how they are going to pay for it, they are better positioned to focus on their studies and reach their full potential. I applaud the schools for their work on implementing these important strategies to address meal shaming."
State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said, "I'm proud that all of our schools now have strong meal shaming policies in place that maintain the dignity of our students, and that provide increased support for struggling families. The plans that are being put into action across New York ensure that no child will be stigmatized or embarrassed because they don't have the money to pay for a meal at school. We thank the Governor and Legislature for making this a priority."
Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Senator Carl Marcellino said, "School children should not have to feel embarrassed or shamed for their inability to pay for meals in school. This important milestone in the Governor's No Student Goes Hungry initiative will ensure all students will not only have a well-balanced meal in school, but they will not receive a lesser, inadequate meal because they can't afford it. By guaranteeing a meal for all students, we are creating a stronger, more successful future generation of New Yorkers."
Senator Liz Krueger said, "When children are in school they should be able to concentrate on learning, not worry about whether or not they will go hungry. These anti-meal shaming plans will help ensure a student's academic performance will not suffer because they are shamed or ridiculed for their inability to pay for a school meal. I thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership on this important issue."
Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon said, "All schoolchildren should have access to nutritious food and no child should be teased or made to feel ashamed because their family cannot afford school meals. I was outraged to learn that students were given alternative, less healthy meals, like cold cheese sandwiches, and shamed because of their inability to pay. I am thrilled that our schools have committed to ensure that every student has access to a well-balanced meal in school, so that they can stay focused and energized. I'm pleased to have worked with the Governor, Senator Krueger, and advocates on this, and I thank Governor Cuomo for prioritizing the well-being of New York's children."