Gov. Evers’ proposed 2021-23 state budget includes a number of provisions related to school meals, including provisions intended to address so-called “meal shaming” – a term used to describe practices that single out children with unpaid school meal debts.
“Meal shaming” was the subject of legislation during the 2019-20 legislative session which did not pass, and also generated a resolution—Resolution 6.17 (see below) adopted by the 2020 WASB Delegate Assembly.
Meal Shaming: The Governor’s proposed budget bill recommends creating a new sum sufficient categorical aid for reimbursing costs associated with meals served to students who are eligible for reduced-price meals and who are enrolled in a school district, independent charter school, tribal school, private school or residential school.
A school district or school could receive this aid provided it does not charge reduced-price eligible pupils for reduced-price meals. The provision defines a “school meal” as a school lunch or snack under the federal school lunch program and a breakfast under the federal school breakfast program. The payment per meal would be equal to the difference in reimbursement between a free meal and a reduced-price meal. Payments would be based on a school district’s prior year costs, not current year costs.
School Breakfast Reimbursement: The Governor’s proposed budget recommends fully funding reimbursements to school districts, private schools and tribal schools under the school breakfast program at the statutory rate of 15 cents per breakfast as required by current state statutes. (Because the existing appropriation has not been sufficiently funded, reimbursements to school districts have been pro-rated and are currently below 8 cents per breakfast.)
Farm-to-School Program Preference: The Governor’s budget bill would require that in awarding grants under the Farm-to-School program, the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) must give preference to school districts that have a high percentage of students who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals under federal law.
Farm-to-Fork Grant Program: The Governor’s budget bill recommends creating a farm to fork program, similar to the existing farm to school program. Under the program, DATCP may provide grants to entities (other than school districts) that have cafeterias to connect them to nearby farms to provide locally produced foods in meals and snacks, to help the public develop healthy eating habits, to provide nutritional and agricultural education, and to improve farmers’ incomes and direct access to markets.
WASB Resolution 6.17 Meal Shaming reads as follows:
“The WASB opposes singling out, identifying, stigmatizing or embarrassing school children who have unpaid school meal debts as the situation may be totally out of their control. The WASB also opposes state legislation mandating that schools provide a fully reimbursable meal to any student who requests one, regardless of his or her ability to pay for the meal, unless the state provides funding to meet this mandate. The WASB encourages schools and school districts that participate in federal school meals programs to participate, to the extent they are eligible, in federal programs such as the Community Eligibility Provision that provides additional federal funding so that all students, regardless of family income, may receive school breakfasts and lunches without charge.”