A new bill being introduced will prevent “lunch shaming” in Rhode Island public schools.
Lunch shaming is defined as schools taking back a meal or forcing students to perform chores if they cannot pay for their lunch.
Rep. Robert Lancia is introducing the legislation to prevent lunch shaming from happening in Rhode Island. It would also require that schools send a letter to the parent or guardian of a student about an outstanding balance, rather than making the student wear a wristband or stamp.
“Schools are supposed to provide a safe and welcoming environment for every student but these sort of policies do the opposite,” Lancia said. “This bill will ensure that no child will go hungry at school simply because they cannot pay.”
Lancia created the bill after a reported incident in West Warwick, where a student had their lunch thrown away because they didn’t have enough money to pay for it.
While the bill moves through the State House, one West Warwick business is taking action to help children who cannot afford school lunch.
Gel’s Kitchen started a money jar to help students who struggle to afford lunch. Owner Angelica Penta came up with the idea after hearing several stories from parents.
“How many times does this happen on a daily basis?” Penta said. “I have a child, and I just wouldn’t want to imagine him going all day being hungry at school.”
In the past week, Penta has already collected hundreds of dollars in donations from the community. She plans on setting up an account in the business name, and making it available for anyone in need to use for a school lunch in West Warwick.
“I just can’t believe the amount of support from everybody,” Penta said.
Penta said she’s been in contact with the West Warwick superintendent to move forward with her idea. Lancia plans to introduce the bill to the House next week.