A bill aimed at ending the practice of “lunch-shaming” in Texas public schools died at the hands of Freedom Caucus members earlier this month. But state Rep. Helen Giddings, who filed the bill, isn’t giving up on the issue.
Giddings, D-DeSoto, filed House Bill 2159 in February after learning that some public schools in Texas won’t feed schoolchildren whose parents cannot or have not paid for their lunches. In some of these schools, hot meals are thrown away in front of students.
Giddings’ bill would have required schools to feed students regardless of the balance in their accounts and to work out a payment plan with parents or help them apply for free or reduced-cost lunch programs.
After the bill was killed, Giddings said her office received many calls from people concerned about the issue.
“Almost universally the question that was asked was, ‘What can I do to help?’” she said.
Her answer was to partner with Feeding Texas to create a fund that will help pay for school lunches.
Celia Cole, the CEO of Feeding Texas, said the fund will encourage schools to do what Giddings’ bill would have mandated.
“We hope to identify those schools where lunch-shaming, or the potential for lunch-shaming, is a big problem,” she said, “and then use the funds we receive to work with those schools to encourage them to adopt model policies.”
Giddings also worked with state Sen. Diego Bernal to add an amendment to Senate Bill 725 that would allow schools to feed students who cannot pay for food, rather than throwing it out.
“What I’ve learned is that schools want to do the right thing, whether it’s give kids food that is left over from the cafeteria later in the day, or give them a hot meal when their lunch card runs out, but if it’s not in black and white, their lawyers tell them they can’t,” he said. “That’s why they throw so much away.”
The bill passed the House on Sunday and is now in the hands of the governor, who must sign it for it to take effect Sept. 1.