Students across the United States have collectively accrued over 260 million dollars in school debt, not for books or athletic equipment or field trips or loans. They owe it for lunch, which over 30 million children in this country can’t afford, and 80 million of it is in owed in Pennsylvania.
The School Lunch Debt Cancellation Act is a bill introduced earlier this month by PA Senator John Fetterman, who chairs the subcommittee on Food and Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics and Research. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D- RI) and Peter Welch (D- VT) are co-sponsors of the bill, which calls for the US Department of Agriculture to assume any debits carried by children for food.
While the eradication of childhood hunger is obviously the main priority, another issue with this debt is the indignity to which students have been subjected, which has ranged from being allotted alternate meals described as a “badge of shame”, banning from activities like prom, and being threatened with placement in foster care. Neither this nor food insecurity is conducive to receiving the education that every child is due.
We had the opportunity to learn more about school lunch debt and issues surrounding it at a recent fundraising event held by Just Harvest, dedicated to addressing the root causes of hunger in Allegheny County and beyond through advocacy, safety net programs, community-based solutions, and empowerment through political awareness and activism.
You can learn more about how to help through their organization, including at the upcoming JustArt fundraiser, for which we’ll be a sponsor- watch this space for more info coming soon!
You can additionally show your support this bill by signing the “End The Humiliation of School Lunch Debt” petition.