MAZON Applauds Biden Administration’s Extension of Free School Meals, Calling for an End to Lunch Shaming

March 12, 2021

Earlier this week, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the extension of free school meals nationwide throughout the summer and that he is considering providing free meals throughout the 2021-2022 school year. Abby J. Leibman, MAZON’s President and CEO, praised this move and urged the Biden administration to end the cruel practice of “lunch shaming” by providing universal school meals for children across the country:

“Secretary Vilsack and the Biden administration’s decision to provide free school meals through the summer is very encouraging. It is truly a relief to finally have leaders in the executive branch who recognize the critical importance of child nutrition programs, and we expect that they also understand the need to make permanent this particular policy.

Universal free school meals would also eliminate school lunch debt and ensure an end to the appalling practice of “lunch shaming” that still happens in school cafeterias across the country when struggling families fall behind in lunch payments. Right now, it is perfectly legal — and before the pandemic, often common practice — for schools to publicly shame and stigmatize students whose families are unable to pay their school lunch debt. MAZON has been fighting for nearly a decade to expose and end this draconian practice, but sadly, we know that it continues in part because the norm in this country is to blame those in poverty rather than address systemic problems.”

MAZON and organizational partners led the first-ever campaign that exposed the widespread practice of lunch shaming in 2014, which led to the successful passage of the nation’s first state ban on shaming practices in Minnesota later that year. Since then, more than 15 states have either passed or have proposed similar legislation nationwide. MAZON is actively advocating to ban the practice nationwide and working with champions in Congress to relieve unpaid school meal debt and enact universal free school meals.