With bill in limbo, Feeding Texas launches donation page to pay off student lunch debt

This has been the year of lunch shaming.

Earlier this year, legislators in New Mexico passed an anti lunch-shaming bill, but lawmakers in Texas haven’t had as much luck.

Twice a week at Sanchez Elementary, students can choose an entree salad, such as this winter harvest salad, from the cafeteria. All 80 elementary schools in Austin will have a salad bar like this by the end of the school year, but not all the students can pay off their school lunch debt regularly. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Even though most school districts have reasonable policies that allow students to get an alternative meal even if they can’t pay their school lunch account, state Rep. Helen Giddings has led the effort to pass House Bill 2159, which would add some statewide regulations to ban school districts from publicly identifying students without enough money in their school lunch accounts and allow families a grace period to resolve insufficient balances.

This bill has been killed several times by the House Freedom Caucus, so — as this year’s legislative session winds to an end — Giddings has teamed up with Feeding Texas, a statewide association of food banks, to launch a donation page to help pay off student lunch debt around Texas. (The Senate recently revived some parts of the bill, but more on that in a second.)

Feeding Texas is collecting donations to send to schools that have gone into debt to feed students who can’t pay their lunch balance.

 

As of today, you can donate to the Feeding Texas campaign, and the funds raised will be distributed at the end of the school year to reimburse schools that feed students whose lunch accounts are empty. Donors can’t see the overall total of money donated, though, and they haven’t set an official goal.

AISD topped its $20,000 goal last month, but they’ve increased it to $25,000 to try to capture a few more donations before school is out.

RELATED: After $10,000 in donations, all of Austin ISD’s school lunch debt is paid off (for now)

Schools are, by law, required to offer food that meets the federal nutritional guidelines, but this can be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and they don’t get reimbursed from the government for serving it.

According to the Texas Tribune, anti lunch-shaming legislation isn’t dead, yet:

Though Giddings’ original bill was knocked off the calendar, a version of it was revived Saturday and passed by the House as an amendment to a similar bill — Senate Bill 725. The amendment…was based on Giddings’ bill and would allow districts to give meals to students without money in their school lunch accounts — and also give students a grace period to resolve insufficient balances. But it wouldn’t require it, as Giddings’ original bill did. SB 725, which would let school districts offer uneaten or donated food to a nonprofit to give to hungry students, passed 133-0 and now heads back to the Senate, where the upper chamber will decide whether to accept the amendment.


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