Public hearing before Jt Committee on Education now scheduled for September 4, 2019!! Below is information on the bill and more ways you can help take action to reduce meal debt and take it out of the cafeteria in Massachusetts.
1. Learn more about pending Massachusetts legislation,Senate 256 and House 585, to end meal debt practices that harm children. See FACT SHEET below. Join us in submitting testimony before the Joint Committee on Education A public hearing is scheduled for September 4, 2019 starting at 11 AM before the Education Committee, likely Room A-1. Other education bills will also be heard that AM. Contact MLRI for updates on the hearing.
2. Find out if your school district has officially posted its school meal charge policies. The state FY19 Budget includes language (in line item 7053-1909) that required school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program to ensure - by September 30, 2018 - that their meal charge policies were "in a format that is easily accessible and, if possible, made available for parents and guardians." Please let MLRI know if your school district has not taken steps to publicly post and share with families their meal charge policies.
3. Advocate for a meal charge policy that does not punish or harm students. Urge your School District or School Board to adopt a school meal charge policy similar to the Framingham School Meal Charge Policy or the Amherst/Pelham School Meal Policy. Even if the district has already posted their meal charge policy, the district can update meal charge policies any time during the school year. And students should not be caught in the middle of debt discussions!
4. Encourage your school district to take affirmative steps to help students qualify for free and reduced-price meal status. Here's three recommended steps districts can take immediately:
All school communications with parents/caregivers about meal debt should include a free/reduced-price school meal application.
School districts should do frequent (at least monthly) data checks to try to "directly certify" for free meals any students who receive (or live with a child who receives) SNAP, TANF cash benefits and certain types of MassHealth. This should be a first step any time a student has meal debt.
Districts should encourage families to apply for SNAP (food stamps) benefits. SNAP is available to families with incomes under 200% of the poverty level. SNAP = free meal status. Here's fliers in 5 languages on the added benefits of SNAP. Families with reduced-price meal status often qualify for SNAP and their children get free meal status. Project Bread's FoodSource Hotline can also help families apply for SNAP.
5. Be sure school districts are not "transferring" debt to other families. This is especially important for children who start living with a grandparent or other caregiver. School districts should not transfer meal debt to the new family. See sample fact sheet and letter on how to handle these cases HERE.
Join the Massachusetts No Student Hungry Coalition
Another way you can help end meal shaming in Massachusetts, is by joining the Massachusetts No Student Hungry Coalition and by supporting our work to end meal shaming and food charging policies. Click the link HERE to join the coalition.