Skip To Content
  • Add Yours badge

Lunch-Shaming Is A Real Problem In Schools — Has It Happened To You?

This shouldn't have been happening and still shouldn't be an issue.

Lunch-shaming is an all-too-common practice by schools intended to shame students or their parents for not being able to pay for school lunches, or having a debt built up.

Girl carrying her school lunch
Tetra Images / Getty Images

Though free and reduced lunch programs do exist, many students still fall through the cracks and face food insecurity regardless.

States like California and New Mexico have either taken steps to ensure that all students get lunch, or created laws that prevent lunch-shaming, but the problem still exists nationwide and has existed since I was a kid on the reduced-price lunch program.

A girl paying for her lunch in a cafeteria
Sdi Productions / Getty Images

Let's face it: Students deserve to eat regardless of their financial circumstance, period. And shaming children for circumstances beyond their control is not a step in the right direction. So to put light on this issue, I want to know: Were you ever shamed by your school for either not being able to pay for your lunch or racking up a debt?

Perhaps you had your tray of food ready to go, and when you got to the front of the line, workers were forced to throw it out in front of everyone because you were in the red.

Pizza being thrown out in  the trash
Andreypopov / Getty Images / iStockphoto

This actually happened to 40 students at a Utah elementary school in 2014.

Maybe they placed a stamp on your arm that was supposed to inform your parents that you owed money or were low on lunch funds.

Twitter: @juanyfbaby

The above stamp says "Lunch Money" and was put on a second-grader in 2017.

Or maybe, like me, you had to "pay off" your lunch by doing cafeteria work, such as wiping tables, or putting on an apron and helping the cafeteria staff with their duties.

A child wiping a counter down
Maskot / Getty Images / Maskot

Yes, they had me wiping down tables during my recess time at the age of 8 just so I could eat.

Hell, perhaps you're a parent whose child came home crying because the staff took measures to make your kid feel like an outcast during lunch.

A mom consoling her sad kid
Skynesher / Getty Images

These types of stories are heartbreaking, but it's time to let the world know just how unacceptable they are. So if you were ever shamed in any way by your school for not being able to afford a lunch, please let us know what happened and how that impacted you in the comments below. If you'd prefer to remain completely anonymous, use this form instead. Some of the responses will be featured in a BuzzFeed Community post.