Fruit bar pic Web Flickr USDAgovSPRINGFIELD – In many school districts, students who are unable to pay for lunch can be stigmatized with a special wristband or handstamp, and in some cases – even denied lunch.

To stop this practice known as “lunch shaming” in Illinois, State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) passed Senate Bill 2428 through the Illinois Senate Education Committee today.

“Lunch shaming punishes kids for the mistakes of their parents,” Stadelman said. “Every student, no matter what their background or parents’ income level, deserves to eat. In some cases, this may be the only hot meal the students eat all day.”

Under Stadelman’s proposal, every school will be required to provide a meal to a student that requests one. While the school can contact the parents directly to request they pay for the child’s lunch, they are prevented from throwing the meal out, forcing the student to wear a wristband or otherwise stigmatizing them.  If the school district is owed $500 or more by a student’s parents and they have made a reasonable effort to collect the debt, the district can request the Comptroller withhold tax refunds to parents to pay off the debt.

“The top priority of our schools is to educate our children,” Stadelman said. “Forcing a hungry child to sit through class makes it nearly impossible for them to focus and could have a long-term impact on their education.”

The proposal passed through the Illinois Senate Education Committee with a vote of 9-2-1. It will now head to the Senate floor for a vote.