Democrat Ilhan Omar announces bill tackling school lunch debt shaming

Greg Nash

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) has announced a new bill to address school lunch debt “shaming” in schools across the country.

The No Shame at School Act will ban any kind of identification of students who cannot pay for lunch at school, like wristbands, and prohibit schools from publishing lists of students who owe debts for school lunches.

It also ensures schools cannot use debt collectors to address school lunch debts, and it authorizes the federal government to reimburse schools for a child’s meals for up to 90 days.

{mosads}“Across this country, students whose families are struggling to afford school meals are being singled out and humiliated at lunchtime,” Omar told reporters at a Wednesday press conference. “These students are subjected to various shaming practices at schools. Some students have been literally branded with stamps.”

Omar also slammed the Trump administration for potential cuts to child nutrition and food assistance in the president’s proposed budget, saying the proposal would cut $1.7 billion from child nutrition programs. 

“Hunger is the result of policies that keep wages low and funnel wealth to the top,” Omar said.

The freshman lawmaker, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia, said the issue is personal for her, having faced hunger during her time in refugee camps as a child. Omar also worked as a nutrition educator.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) joined Omar, and argued that the bill is an example of Democrats putting forth their “priorities.”

“No one should go hungry,” he said. “Not just in America, but anywhere in the world. But here, we have a chance to be able to make sure we are reversing the wrongs that have been brought about not just by the Trump administration, but by the budgets that have been adopted.” 

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) also joined Omar in support of the bill.

“The question of whether a child will eat should not be dependent on their family’s income. That’s not what our country stands for,” Haaland said at the press conference.

The lawmakers were also joined by representatives of teacher groups and parents, including the mother of Philando Castile, who was killed in 2016 by a police officer at a traffic stop. He worked as a school nutrition supervisor and was passionate about paying lunch debt for students.

“We’re one of the richest countries on this planet,” Valerie Castile said. “I don’t think any child should be hungry.”

Tags Ben Ray Lujan Deb Haaland Ilhan Omar school lunch debt

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