Chobani, Simpson endorse anti-shaming act for students who can’t pay for lunch

TWIN FALLS — A member of Idaho’s congressional delegation wants to end the systematic shaming of students who cannot pay for lunch.

U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, tweeted his support Monday for the Anti-Lunch Shaming Act of 2019. The bill prohibits schools participating under federal breakfast or lunch programs from stigmatizing children who are unable to pay for meals.

Simpson’s tweet included a link to a video showing him and Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-NY, speaking with Chobani leaders who are advocating for the bill.

“You don’t shame kids for the actions of parents who should be paying the bills,” Simpson said in the video. “We’re more than willing to work with you, and to me it’s a disgraceful practice that you’d shame the kids and make them feel different than the other kids in the school.”

The bill would prevent school districts from identifying students who cannot pay for lunch by marking them with a wristband or handstamp. It also says students would not be required to “perform chores or activities” or throw away food already served to them. Any communication related to lunch debt would be directed to parents, not students. The bill has 79 cosponsors in the House and a similar bill has 13 cosponsors in the Senate.

Chobani, a New York-based company with operations in Twin Falls, announced in June it would cover all of the $85,000 in school lunch debt accumulated by more than 900 students during the 2018-19 academic year in Twin Falls School District.