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Lunch Shaming, The Lunch Debt Problem

Britney Lugo

In the United States, the unpaid meal debt is nearly $10 million, almost 75% of all public schools in the country. On average, each school is approximately $2,500 in debt. How does it make you feel to know that our high school has more than that?

Lunch sometimes makes up for a missed breakfast or fills in the place for an early dinner, but some don’t have it at all. The way our school lunches work is, if your parents make over a specific salary, you have to pay for your lunch in the cafeteria.

Today, students all over America have to skip maybe more than one meal a day just because they don’t have enough money in their lunch accounts. Currently, about 12% of the school is in lunch debt. Right now, there are 1,932 students enrolled in our school. That is approximately $2,938.33 in debt from just lunch alone. The rule is unfair. Any student should be able to eat for free. Several other schools near us allow their students to get free lunch no matter how much their parents make, like San Marcos High school that is amazing because it ensures that their students can get two fresh meals in the day. San Marcos was able to do this with the help of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). This program allows for all students enrolled to enjoy free lunch and breakfast regardless of financial circumstances.

At our school, some students are dependent on lunch at school because that is the only meal they get. To have to pay to be able to enjoy a human necessity is very cruel and wrong. Yes, you may have reminded them about their balance. Still, with classes, extra-curricular activities, and outside events, not every student can remember the money they need for their account.

Students should be given a free lunch rather than having to pay because studies show that only about 36 percent of students can eat breakfast before school. Yes, the school does offer breakfast and lunch, but students who are not eligible have to pay for both. If a student isn’t able to pay for their lunch, what are the odds they’re going to be able to pay for breakfast? Having to skip out on both breakfast and lunch is already canceling out two of the three meals we are supposed to eat in a day. But what are you supposed to do when you get home, and you also don’t have dinner to eat?

When graduating, if you have any debt under your account, you’re denied access to receive your diploma. Quite ridiculous. If that student had the grades to make it out of high school, give them that certificate rewarding their hard work. Yes, a debt may be a few dollars, but times do get tough in individual families, and not everybody has a few dollars just lying around to make sure they’re able to eat.

When at school, having to pay for a meal that could be your only one for the day is unfair. It’s not only unfair to the students but in a way, it’s also unfair to the school in general. Putting a school into debt is just as bad as putting a student in debt.

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