NEA member briefs lawmakers on lunch shaming

NEA member Marcie Villanueva was deeply troubled when she witnessed a cashier take a child’s lunch, throw it away, and replace it with a cheese sandwich, an apple, and milk. “I saw that look of distress come over that child’s face, and the cashier’s face said she was uneasy as well,” says Villanueva. But the employee had to follow the district policy: If a child’s meal account balance was $10 or more in debt, the meal had to be thrown out and replaced, even though the price of the regular lunch was still added to the child’s debt.

Villanueva delivered a straightforward message at a congressional briefing last week in the House: We can do better. Now the lead food service worker at Harlan Elementary School in Wilmington, Delaware, she started working in the field five years ago. Villaneuva urged legislators to take action to end lunch shaming, prevent students from going hungry, and keep school cafeterias from operating in the red. Congress can also help food service workers get access to the training they need.

Urge your senators and representative to cosponsor the Improving Training for Food Service Workers Act.

19 responses to “NEA member briefs lawmakers on lunch shaming

  1. I usually don’t even involve myself with others comments, but this comment that you have left, Schurkey, is just plain evil and mean, as well as contradicting yourself. You first say that “school is a time for learning,” but then continue to say to teach children, which this includes innocent 5-year-olds who are Kindergarten, “that bills need to be paid, instead of teaching them that the taxpayers will bail them out.” First, I don’t believe that kind of “teaching” is even involved in the school’s curriculum, thank goodness. Second, how are the taxpayers paying for a child to receive an apple, cheese, and a milk? These children aren’t on the school’s “free lunch program,” if they have a balance/account; therefore, even that unethical meal is still charged to the child’s account- which is paid for by parents, and not “the taxpayers.” Third, you’re belief to fixing this specific problem, is by no feeding innocent children? I’m not sure about you, but I’m sure he majority of society can agree with me, that when having an 8 hour day and going without any food that entire day, by the second half of the day- Iran pretty impossible to even try to learn because our bodies need nutrients, especially young, growing children [ in comment to your statement of “school is a time of learning.” ]

    Now, the specific reason I decided to comment on your response, is in regards to your two very disrespectful comment, which were, “…suddenly will find the ethics and means to pay their bills…when it’s the dirtbag parents responsibility, not ours,” and “SNAP, reduced price school…….are nothing more than subsidies to the Tobacco, Beer, illegal drug, Snack/food and Tattoo industries.”

    Let me be the first to explain to you what you call “dirtbag parents,” actually are. I went straight to college after graduating from high-school, to achieve my Associate of Science in Nursing, which I walked across the stage 8 months pregnant with my only child, (and yes I was married, so you can keep any thoughts to respond with more hateful comments such as being a “whore,” etc.). When my child was 2-years-old, I went back to college to achieve my Bachelor of Science in Nursing, while I continued to work full-time. So needless to sat, both times I was in nursing school, I worked VERY hard to make something of myself, and to further my education and career.

    After working for over a year in a Critical Care Unit, I inquired a back injury, due to the low staffing ratios and being forced by our employer to physically have to move our completely sedated patients. After 6 long months of the living with the worse pain of my life (I continued to work full-time in the unit, while receiving multiple different treatments for my back), I had no other choice then to have my second back surgery by the age of 28-years-old. However, this back surgery did not get my back to a functional level of being able to work, in enough time to my employer standards, who then FORCED me to resign and would not accept any of the reasonable accommodations I requested. Since July of 2018, I have fought, and I have fought hard, for adequate and compassionate care as a patient, which I have yet to find a physician to take the time, investigate, and care enough to give me my life back, of living with a functional level of chronic pain. I haven’t been able to return to work, which has caused my family to now have to live on only ONE income. We live with the bare essentials and bills because I have canceled every possible “unneeded” bill, such as cable, phone bill, etc. I have been one of these “taxpayers” you speak of since I was 16 years old- and in or desperate time of need, any governmental assistance to help us survive, has been denied to us. We even sold one of our cars to survive and be able to pay our bills, and we have been forced to move and pay the lowest possible amount of rent, so we could survive. By your definition, we are one of these “UNFIT and dirtbag parents,” because their are times we can’t afford to put money into our child’s account. I have also applied for SSDI, due to my medically declared disability, and once I am approved for SSDI, I will then be automatically approved for “SNAP, housing assistance, reduced price school lunch for my child, and heating assistance.” However, neither my husband nor I, and just so you know, nor our 5-year-old daughter, drink alcohol, smoke or chew any tobacco, do illegal drugs, whatever you mean by “snack-food,” or have any tattoos- therefore, we would not utilize any government assistance towards these “industries.”

    I have told you ALL of this very personal information and detail because I find it so very important, especially now since I am facing this horrible situation of not being able to help provide for my family (all because I was giving my life, body, and career to help critical and sick strangers/patients), at no fault of my own, and needing the help of government assistance— to hopefully shed some light to such ignorant, hurtful, and just evil comments made by people, such as yourself. I am a witness to say that NONE of us know what life/our future holds for us or will be. I would of never thought it dreamed that I would be in such a situation that I couldn’t always provide for my child and my family.

    So to tie all that I have said into a few comments for what I pray and hope will be your understanding and opening your viewpoint:
    NOT every individual who is struggling to provide lunch to their children are “unfit and dirtbag parents.” The majority of Americans who are assisted financially through government help are NOT drug users, alcoholics, or “dumping their obligations on We the People.” The majority of those Americans are people just like you, trying to do the best they can with whatever set of cards that life has dealt them. They love their children just as much as the next person, and they live in pure mental misery that they can’t give their children ALL they need, and even want! I can say all of this because I am one of those parents! I truly pray that you will never find yourself in a situation where you need help from the government, but I also pray that all individuals who feel the same as you have stated through your comments left, will find more compassion, sympathy, empathy, and understanding for the people who do need help from the government. It is so important that “We the People” support each other, and try to help our fellow citizens in times of need because we, as individuals, NEVER KNOW when we may need that same help in our own lives.

    I do not believe that comments, such as the ones you have left, are beneficial, nor helpful, in finding an actual solution to the problems we face in America, such as the school lunch issues. I also do not believe that when we are able to be the “taxpayers,” that we should freely agree or choose to starve innocent children through an 8 hour day of school. We never truly know what the person next to us is going through, or suffering from, behind their own closed doors, and I believe that as American citizens, we should at least be willing and open enough to try to understand, and contain empathy, for the struggles that other citizens may be facing- at not fault of their own. I pray that all of us as Americans, having a strong loving heart for strangers and contain a personal belief system that using degrading terminology, in reference to other fellow Americans, is truly unacceptable.

    (Please, ignore/look over any possible misspelled words or grammar in my personal comment- I am in extreme pain, and I am watching my child alone today, since my husband picked up the little bit of available overtime, to try to help us survive bills for the beginning of the month, so my mind doesn’t work as well when I am suffering from extreme pain, and I don’t have the available time to proof read my comment before posting, please forgive me)

  2. It doesn’t seem fair that children bear the responsibility of not having the food that they need to attend school. Everyone in this country should have access to food they need no matter whether their parents can afford to pay.

  3. We all need good food and this is especially true for children. They are dependent on those who supply the need and the quality they eat. The food industry in this country has failed not only children. What is denied in nutrient and home care will affect all of us. We need most of all to care enough to protect and nourish them. They are our future. i

  4. School is a time for learning. Start by teaching these kids that bills need to be paid, instead of teaching them that The Taxpayers will bail them out.

    Kids with unpaid balances should get NOTHING. No apple, no cheese sandwich, no milk. Instead, CALL THE COPS so that their “parent(s)” are arrested and prosecuted for child neglect. They are UNFIT PARENT(s).

    Prosecute ten “parent(s)”, hundreds more will “suddenly” find the ethics and the means to pay their bills. Stop dumping their obligations on We the People, when it’s the dirtbag “parent’s” responsibility, not ours.

    SNAP, “reduced price school lunch”, housing assistance, heating assistance…are nothing more than subsidies to the Tobacco, Beer, illegal drug, Snack-food and Tattoo industries.

    1. Wow. I feel really sad that there are such bitter and callous people such as you. There is no certificate for parenthood; parents are all over the spectrum, from poor to wealthy, from irresponsible to responsible, from ill to well, etc. Children are already victims (or beneficiaries, if they are among the fortunate) of their circumstances. Schools should not be places where children experience shame. This is one place where the playing field should be leveled as much as possible so that learning can be maximized.

    2. Wow, you are cruel! “School is a time for learning.” Have you ever tried to teach a hungry child who’s only meal is probably school lunch? How about a classroom where half of the kids would go hungry if not for school lunch. Kids who are hungry should not be punished.

      Our school social worker often goes to homes where the cupboards are bare and the parent/s are both working to scrape by. At the end of the week, we send home backpacks of pre-wrapped food that would otherwise be thrown away.

      I also have seen our lunch ladies throw a perfectly good tray of food away (wasteful spending!) and give the kid a P&J sandwich right in front of peers, holding up the line which only increases the embarrassment and shaming.

    3. You are a disgusting piece of work. It is NOT the child’s fault and you want even young children to go hungry all day? How well do you think they will behave and learn, let alone the physical and health effects?

      A child, especially a young one, has no control over what their parents do or do not do. All you’re teaching them is that they matter less than others, and that their worth and health is based on money.

      And let me guess. You’re the type that would have no qualms about starving a kid all day, then want them reported and disciplined for whatever behavior and/or health effects it had, or whatever effects on grades and testing it would have. And I hope you don’t call yourself Christian or “pro-life” or “civilized”, because you’re anything but any of those.

    4. I also pay taxes. I don’t begrudge my money going to children.

      I see that you subscribe to the fallacy that the poor are responsible for their own poverty.

      This is an education association site. Perhaps your education needs some remedy, sir or madame.

    5. Why don’t you tell us your name? This is disgusting and I really hope you don’t work in schools. All your beliefs have been debunked, nothing more than racism, classism, bigotry.
      But you’re probably a voter. My condolences to your district.

    6. Children are not responsible for their parents’ actions, whether due to poverty or some other ill they can be judged for. No child should go hungry.

    7. You are a horrible person.
      It’s not the child’s fault and yet you want to create more suffering for these poor children! I’m aghast at this insensitive comment!

    8. School is, indeed, a time for learning. Hungry and/or malnourished children do not learn well, and cruelty teaches nothing but anger and resentment. Allowing a child to go hungry when there is an abundance of food is the absolute height of cruelty. The true insanity in this is that this district (and many others, I’m sure) will throw a tray of food into the trash can and replace it with a fake-cheese sandwich, an apple and milk. Whatever the behavior or ethics – or lack thereof – of the parents may be, the child does not deserve to be humiliated or poorly nourished because of it. An easy fix would be to send a note to the family alerting them to the negative balance in the child’s lunch account. If payment is still not made, make an in person contact with the parents and expedite a free lunch application. It’s true that there are parents who are negligent, some of whom could provide but fail to, for a variety of unacceptable reasons. They are not in the majority. Poor planning and lack of education are more frequently the root causes of poverty. Often, unforeseen circumstances cause sudden loss of income and parents are left having to learn to juggle finances. Learning to ask for help in those situations is not easy. Be very careful about passing judgement, especially in the steepest and most profound economic downturn in the history of this Country.

  5. I argue the importance of improving the training for the Food Service Workers Act to be placed on the agenda ASP and and passed so our schools all provide the necessary service to our students that they need each and everyday. Boards of Education need to be more involved when they out-source their individual contracts to a food provider that they are providing what they say and not cutting corners with the food they provide and the workers they provide to distribute their services.

  6. If the regular lunch is thrown in the garage, does it make since to punish a child and embarrass them with a less appealing one. Doing this is more expensive for the school budget since now two lunches have been uses Not to mention the shame the children feel.

  7. I’m sure your children or grandchildren are quite comfortable where they are and don’t have one bit of concern or any other child out there because their concerns are being met. Who are we? says:

    I am so tired of hearing what does administration is doing to children and especially children in need. When did this country become so mean? Why can we find money for a wall but we can’t find funds to put a decent meal in about child’s stomach. I’m sure your children or grandchildren are quite comfortable where they are and don’t have one bit of concern or any other child out there because their concerns are being met. Who are we?

  8. as a paraprofessional that supervises lunch periods, I have witnessed this myself. Not throwing out a lunch but telling a CHILD you owe money so ( in our district) you get a soy butter and jelly sandwich and milk.
    I have paid for many a lunch out of my pocket to allow a child a hot meal, possibly their only one of the day.
    This practice is inhumane.

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