“If our students are hungry, they cannot learn. We must first take care of our students’ most basic needs in order to be able to provide them a quality education. I’ve heard heartbreaking stories from across the state where children are hungry and food is being thrown away…that must change. I wish we didn’t need to legislate feeding hungry children. But if even one child in our community is denied food, or humiliated because of a parent’s negligence, we need to do something.”
– Testimony by Lois Kilby-Chesley , president of the Maine Education Association President
This bill would have prohibited public schools from punishing, identifying, or stigmatizing a student who cannot pay for a meal or have meal payments due in cases where the family does not already qualify for free or reduced lunches. It mandates that schools discuss payment issues directly with the parent rather than use school children as go-betweens.
No child should have to go hungry. Maine has the third highest rate of hunger in the nation, while one in every five children in our state are food insecure. Food is a basic right, and all children should be served school meals whether parents can or cannot afford to pay. Furthermore, the embarrassment of being singled out and sometimes having to wear an identifying stamp or wristband is a form of punishment no child should have to endure.
PASSED BUT NOT ENACTED: This bill passed the House; at the time of publication, it has been “carried over” to a special session but hasn’t yet been heard by the Senate.