A little boy in Arizona recently went viral because a school cafeteria employee put a stamp on his arm that read, “Lunch Money.” The child went home embarrassed for being distinguished from his peers as someone who ran out of money in his lunch account. His lunch shaming story is just one of many recent ones across the country, so as a result, New Mexico is officially making “lunch shaming” against the law.
The Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights is being described as the first piece of legislation that makes it illegal to call out children when their parents are low on their lunch funds. This new law applies to all schools — both public and private — within the state and prevents schools from embarrassing children when they don’t have enough money in their account.
In some schools, children with insufficient funds are forced to throw out their food, wear wristbands, clean, or perform tasks in front of their classmates in order to eat. While putting an end to these practices, the law also calls for schools to work with parents on payments as well as help them to sign up for federal meal assistance, if necessary.
“People on both sides of the aisle were genuinely horrified that schools were allowed to throw out children’s food or make them work to pay off debt,” said Jennifer Ramo, executive director of New Mexico Appleseed, according to The New York Times. “It sounds like some scene from ‘Little Orphan Annie,’ but it happens every day.”