Bill to Help Identify Students Eligible for Meal Programs, Destigmatize Debt
Seeking to combat hunger among New Jersey students and prevent punitive action against them for incurred meal debt, legislation to address the issue was approved in the Assembly Education Committee on Monday.
Assemblywoman Carol Murphy (D-Burlington), sponsor of the bill (A-4856), issued the following statement:
“I am pleased this bill was advanced in committee, it tackles two very important parts of our school meal issue here in New Jersey.
“First, by eliminating policies employed in schools to punish and effectively stigmatize students whose families cannot pay off school meal debt. And second, by establishing guidelines for schools to improve the identification and participation of eligible students in free and reduced-price meal programs.
“I find it totally unacceptable that children, whose families may be struggling to pay for any number of reasons, are being singled out. Giving a child an alternative meal, forcing them to sit at a particular table, and barring them from school trips or even prom hinders productive learning.
“We need to be getting a better picture of why families can’t pay and then developing action around that, not making assumptions. The fundamental needs of our students must always come first.”