Maryland Hunger Solutions Testifies Before the General Assembly in Support of School Meal Debt Bill
410-528-0021, ext. 3018
ANNAPOLIS, MD., February 18, 2020 – Today, Maryland Hunger Solutions, in partnership with Chobani, testified in support of the Public Schools – Student Meal Programs and Meal Charges Act (HB1173/SB760). Introduced by Delegate Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-23A) and Senator Clarence Lam (D-12), the bill would ensure that no school district in Maryland can deny students a meal or throw away a meal after it has been served if students do not have funds in hand or in their account. Districts would also be prohibited from publicly identifying students with school meal debt, restricting participation in extracurricular activities, or making students do chores as punishment for their school meal debt.
Mark Broadhurst, senior director of public, Chobani testified before the Maryland General Assembly today, along with Etienne Melcher Philbin, senior child nutrition policy analyst at the Food Research & Action Center and Julia Gross, anti-hunger program associate at Maryland Hunger Solutions.
“The last thing that kids should worry about is if there’s a warm lunch for them at school – and the shame they might feel if their classmates realize they can’t afford a school lunch,” said Mark Broadhurst, senior director of public affairs at Chobani. “We must go further than paying off school meal debt. This is a problem that requires systemic change. We support this legislation and urge Maryland to take the necessary steps to protect our children and ensure they have equal access to the school meals they need to learn and thrive.”
A recent report by Maryland Hunger Solutions, a statewide anti-hunger organization, highlighted the issue by examining school meal debt policies in 21 of Maryland’s 24 school districts for school year 2018–2019, and recommended best practices for responding to and preventing the accumulation of debt while protecting children from humiliation and embarrassment in their schools, many of which are included in this bill.
“No student should learn what hunger feels like at school, and no student should be embarrassed or penalized,” said Michael J. Wilson, director, Maryland Hunger Solutions. “The Public Schools – Student Meal Programs and Meal Charges Act will share best practices from around the state of Maryland, prohibit the shaming of children, and help ensure that schools are not financially burdened by school meal debt.”
With this bill, Maryland would join the ranks of states across the country that have comprehensive statewide meal charge policies that address meal shaming, including: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
Maryland Hunger Solutions works to end hunger and improve the nutrition, health, and well-being of children and families in Maryland.