Grand Blanc mom's push to eradicate 'lunch shaming' helps shape new legislation

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GRAND BLANC (WJRT) (09/20/2018) - The impetus behind a bill introduced in Lansing on Thursday started when a seventh grader saw a friend having his lunch taken away because of an overdrawn lunch account.

A Grand Blanc mother got involved, and now lawmakers are considering a "Hunger-Free Student Bill of Rights" to end "lunch shaming" in Michigan schools.

State Sen. Jim Ananich, a Democrat from Flint, decided to introduce this legislation after talking with Harmony Lloyd, a mom who believes lunch debts should not involve the students.

"This isn't about giving away things," she said. "This is about respecting kids and keeping kids out of the financial discussions."

Lloyd, whose seventh grade son came home upset after witnessing a classmate's lunch get thrown away at Grand Blanc East Middle School, decided to speak out.

"Any kind of issue with a bill or debt should be between the school and the parent. That's the crux of this," she said.

While the school board listened to her about the incident that happened in February, she said nothing changed.

The district's website states that if a student has an outstanding charge, they will not be allowed to charge another lunch. A small snack will be provided.

As she continued to research the topic, Lloyd said she discovered it's an issue in other districts, as well as nationally. She thinks schools should do better, and Ananich agreed.

"We're talking about giving kids food," he said. "Let's figure out a way to make sure that the schools can work with the parents to get this resolved."

Ananich's bill says public school students who cannot pay for a meal or who owe a meal debt cannot be identified or stigmatized by being made to wear a wristband or handstamp or perform chores.

And schools would be required to provide a meal to student who request one, regardless of their ability to pay for the meal.

"I understand debts have to be paid. That makes sense," Ananich said. "But to treat people as different classes in a school building, I don't think that's the answer."

His bill also authorizes schools to establish a donation fund to help students' families pay for school meals. Parents also would be allowed to opt out of allowing their child to request a meal.

We reached out to the Grand Blanc Community Schools Superintendent Clarence Garner was not available for comment Thursday evening.

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