New bill would ban 'school lunch shaming,' but who will pay for the lunches?

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Some state lawmakers are looking to ban "lunch shaming," a controversial tactic to get families to pay up when they fall behind on their school lunch bills.

School lunches only cost about $2 or $3. But when they go unpaid, it adds up to tens of thousands of dollars. Lawmakers are now deciding if schools should penalize kids when they fall behind on payments.

Stamford's superintendent says they ended so-called "lunch shaming" three years ago. Now, the district pays off the debt. But it's a lot of money, about $68,000 so far this school year.

"Do we want our families to pay? Absolutely -- if they can," said Superintendent Dr. Tamu Lucero. "And if they can't, we want to give them the support to be able to fill out the documents, so that they would be able to be eligible for free and reduced price lunch."

But other school systems say they can't swallow that cost.

"To the extent that their revenue isn't coming in to support the cost of the program, that puts school districts in a difficult position and they have to take money out of other resources," said Patrice McCarthy, of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education.

To help, outside groups like churches could help pay off school lunch debt. But parents say kids shouldn't suffer because their parents fall behind.

There is money, but up to 20% of eligible parents don't sign up for school lunch assistance. Some districts have special teams to get them enrolled.

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