SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – Public school districts in the U.S. are rethinking how they cope with unpaid lunch debts amid a wave of outrage over practices that single out children by taking food out of their hands or stamping them with a payment reminder.
The U.S. Agriculture Department is requiring districts to adopt policies this month for addressing meal debts and to inform parents at the start of the academic year.
The agency isn’t specifically barring some of the potentially embarrassing tactics. It is encouraging schools to work more closely with parents to address delinquent accounts and ensure children don’t go hungry in classrooms.
Some states are taking matters into their own hands, with New Mexico this year becoming the first to outlaw school-meal shaming and several others weighing similar laws.