Stop Shaming Children Without Lunch Money

Target: Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education

Goal: Stop schools from publicly shaming children who can’t afford their lunches.

Schools all around the country are engaging in a horrible practice: shaming kids who can’t afford their lunches. Some kids have been forced to do chores in the cafeteria in front of their peers, some have had their lunches thrown out, and kids have even been stamped with the phrase “I need lunch money.” Children from low income families face enough bullying without being publicly shamed by the school staff. Kids shouldn’t be singled out for their family’s inability to pay for their food, and they shouldn’t have to choose between enduring this shame or going hungry.

In one year, 36 percent of schools with meal debt took administrative actions, like withholding grades. It is the responsibility of the parent to provide for their child, and when that fails to happen kids shouldn’t be punished for their parents’ shortcomings. The economy is bad and families are struggling. The school lunch may be the only meal these children are able to eat all day. Sign this petition to forbid schools from shaming kids unable to pay for their school lunches.


Dear Mrs. DeVos,

No one should go hungry, especially growing children from low income families. That’s exactly what’s happening, unfortunately, as kids are being lunch shamed at their schools. Their lunches are sometimes provided to them if they’re willing to wipe down tables or sweep the cafeteria, but sometimes the embarrassment prevents them from doing so. They don’t want to open themselves up to bullying, since they’ve most likely already been bullied for coming from a low income family. Bullying is nothing new to poor kids, but being teased for wearing hand-me-downs is nothing compared to going hungry.

Some school employees have protested this injustice. One woman in Pittsburgh quit her job rather than inflict humiliation on innocent children. A few others have started trying to pay for the kids’ lunches when they’re unable to, and some schools provide free lunches for all kids. That’s a great solution, as it keeps everyone on a level playing field, but it’s unlikely to become widespread any time soon. Alternate meals are sometimes offered as well, which may be a suitable solution. Although it doesn’t eliminate the waste of throwing out “good” meals, and the alternate lunch should be items that are already available to students so it doesn’t draw attention to the child. Please ban the practice of lunch shaming in schools.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Amanda Mills

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  1. Gen Lovyet Agustsson says:

    thats not fair to children who need food. i was told to eat and i keep on loosing appetite due to calorie restriction or going skinny. i wasn’t very thin to begin with. children all over the world are starving and they need food!

  2. This is shocking school staff bullying children for not having money for there meal,the staff involved need to be sacked

  3. Why are kids buying, instead of making, their own lunch!?

    I find this post untruthful! Because if this was the case, the Staff would risk being Fired! Also, go after the Parents, because I’m sure they’re eating lunch, wherever they are!

    For several years, I have witnessed free lunches to kids that could afford to bring their own to school, but instead, the Schools in my area, like to be noted, as being concerned for their students, when the parents could very well support feeding their own kids. Many parents take advantage of the school feeding their kids, because they themselves are too lazy to send lunch with their kid, even breakfast!

    Back in the 1950s, we 3 young girls, were fed the best that our very hardworking, single Mother could give us. No missed meals, and all made from scratch when she came home after a hard day of work. Go after the Parents and Fire the Staff that are shaming kids!

  4. Margaret Melnick says:

    I agree go after the parents and fire unfeeling staff. Most parents can feed their kids if they spend their money on food rather than things they don’t need. I was a single mom with 2 boys and they never went without a breakfast, lunch and supper. While delivering Christmas hampers etc how many people have found beer bottles all over the room but the family needed a hamper? I know many who delivered hampers and found this type of situation. There is usually government aide for people really in need so spend it the way it was meant and you will likely be able to feed your children.

  5. Shaming kids publicly for not having lunch money – by whom? If it is adults get rid of them immediately!

  6. I am almost 50. I remember I used to clean the lunch area every afternoon after lunch or I’d help serve the lunches or take the money before lunch but I don’t remember it being humiliating. I just didn’t want to bring my lunch and my mother didn’t want to pay for my lunch. I remember though there were free lunch kids–and sometimes when I worked at taking the money from the kids or checking the box on a filed card for those who were paid in advance–there were special cards for the free lunch kids. And they were ashamed and afraid I’d reveal who they were…you could tell by their nervous faces. But I didn’t care. It was none of my business. I just did my job and waved them though. It was the free lunch kids though who had the stigma and they were usually kept confidential by those who knew.

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