Bullock, Costa celebrate passage of school-lunch shaming ban

HARRISBURG, Oct. 27 – State Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Phila., and state Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, announced the passage of a school-lunch shaming ban they worked collaboratively on since May.

The provision, which would prohibit shaming public school students for their financial situations, is included in the 2017-18 School Code (H.B. 178), which went to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk earlier this week.

Brought on by reports of “school-lunch shaming” in the spring, Costa introduced a co-sponsorship memo for a bill that would ban this behavior from school administrators, and Bullock introduced a companion bill (H.B. 1403) days later. There had been cases of students being denied a meal, forced to do chores at school, or wear a special wristband indicating that they were receiving a free or reduced lunch. In June, Bullock and Costa joined forces and hosted a news conference to increase awareness of the issue.

“When I heard that school-lunch shaming was still happening in the commonwealth, I was shocked,” Bullock said. “In Pennsylvania, one in six children struggle with hunger. School is often the one place they receive an affordable, nutritious meal. I am glad that with this legislation, we can put the cruel practice of lunch shaming behind us and focus on more productive initiatives, such as “Breakfast after the Bell,” which expands access to school nutrition.”

If signed by the governor, the proposal would expressly forbid student chores to pay for a lunch, stigmatization by the school administration, or denial of a meal to a qualified student. 

“Kids face too much bullying in school already, and there is no reason to continue to allow them to be bullied for their parents’ financial issues,” Costa said. “Every student should have access to an affordable lunch, and they should not be made to feel self-conscious. Our bill would ensure that.”

The lunch-shaming provision awaits action from Wolf as part of a larger package of budget-related legislation.