Each Friday I compile a list that highlights five things you probably missed in the news that week and why you should care about them.
Here’s your list for the week of May 8:
1. LA schools to pilot vegan lunch program
Students in the nation’s second largest district will be able to dine on vegan options this fall when the foodservice program will pilot a vegan lunch initiative. The pilot, which will begin in a select number of schools next school year, was initiated by a student and the youth director of the nonprofit Earth Peace. The student hopes that following the successful pilot in LA, she can take the proposal to the state Department of Education to get it rolled out statewide.
2. School lunch shaming ban bill introduced in Congress
There’s been a lot of hubbub lately about so-called school lunch “shaming,” in which students who have unpaid meal balances are given alternative meals (there are some reports of students having to provide labor in the cafeteria to “pay” for their meals, but I’ve never confirmed such incidents). The legislation introduced in the House and Senate earlier this week, the Anti-Lunch Shaming Act, would prohibit schools from singling out students who have outstanding balances in their meal accounts or who were short on money for the day. The bill would also prohibit those so-called “punishments” like cleaning tables or being given a wristband or hand stamp. The legislation comes on the heels of New Mexico approving similar legislation.
3. More on school lunch shaming: District apologizes
Officials at Person High School in Roxboro, N.C., apologized after the school sent home a notice saying seniors with unpaid meal balances would not be able to walk at graduation or attend the senior cookout, and underclassmen would have to serve detention until the debt was paid. This one is tough. Many in the district called those actions “punishment.” I see their point regarding detention, but when it comes to not walking at graduation or attending the senior cookout, I’m not on the same page. When I attended high school, we weren’t allowed to walk at graduation for a whole host of reasons (not paying overdue library fines, for instance).
School nutrition programs have to pay off those unpaid meal charges at the end of the school year, and many go to great lengths to recoup owed funds (which sometimes grow to hundreds of thousands of dollars). I don’t believe any child should be prevented from eating a meal at school, even if their parents are unable to pay for that meal. But until we provide universal free meals, this will continue to be a problem. There will always be students whose families cannot afford to pay for meals, and schools will continue to tailor their policies to suit the situation, which often includes an alternative meal that some say is “shaming.”
No one wants a child to feel any shame about not being able to purchase a meal and no one wants a child to go hungry. But when the bill comes due at the end of the year, the district is going to have to pay it. There has to be a compromise somewhere.
4. Prescription food helps patients
We all know the importance diet plays in health, particularly when it comes to diabetes. At Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, the new Fresh Food Pharmacy is giving patients healthy food—all for free. The program was piloted last year with 180 Type 2 diabetes patients, who met regularly with a registered dietitian and were given free food from the pantry, not only for themselves but for all members of the household. The pilot patients are all low-income.
5. MIT students call for boycott of Aramark
MIT is putting out an RFP for its dining program, and some students are asking that current provider Aramark be left out of that process. More than 650 students have signed a petition asking that Aramark be denied the opportunity to bid on the contract. The students claimed the foodservice giant had “inadequate, rotten, or maggot-infested food, food shortages, exploitative labor practices, sexual harassment and drug trafficking.” Similar protests were conducted at colleges last year regarding Sodexo.
Contact Becky Schilling at [email protected].
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