By Samantha Brookes, Jessica Carr and Haley Davis
Lubbock area schools have increased efforts to feed children in need and prevent “lunch shaming.”
Lunch shaming has been a topic of interest since a Pennsylvania lunch worker quit her job over policies she says humiliate children who cannot afford lunches.
Jean White is a mother from Carrollton, Texas, whose two sons attended Frenship High School before their graduations in 2010 and 2012.
“When my boys’ father passed away last year, finances crept up on us,” White said. “I never really thought about school lunch costs until then, and the reduced-income meal plan was really helpful for us.”
The lunch prices at Frenship are $2 per meal for regular student lunch plans and $0.40 per meal for reduced-income student plans, according to the Frenship High School website.
“If I missed a lunch payment, my sons, John and Benjamin, have never had a problem purchasing a hot meal,” White said. “I usually got an email or something in the mail from the school, but it never prevented them from eating.”
Beverly Finch, AVID coordinator for Lubbock Independent School District, said Change for Children, a program at Lakeridge United Methodist Church, helps ensure all middle school students in the Lubbock, Frenship and Lubbock Cooper Independent School Districts never go without lunch.
Finch said if a student cannot pay for a lunch because of delinquent payments, the lunch will be paid for through funds provided to the school by the program.
Approximately 17.7 percent of the Lubbock population is below the poverty line, according to the 2010-2015 data from the United States Census Bureau website.
According to Hollye Ladd, a social worker for LISD, the district had 1,088 homeless children enrolled last year.
“Part of the problem is with identifying the student who need assistance because they often don’t voluntarily come forward,” Finch said. “The older they get, the less they want to be labeled as poor.”
Finch said the LUMC also hands out more than 200 snacks every week at several of the middle schools to help children who might not have enough to eat at home.
Kim Petrie is a counselor at Irons Middle School and said many schools in LISD give students a free breakfast.
“The students complete the application based on income,” Petrie said, “then the cafeteria processes the information to see if they qualify for free or reduced lunch.”
Petrie also said Change for Children ensures no child is denied a meal, whether it is because of forgetting to bring money or an overdue balance.
“They’re here to say, ‘We want kids to eat no matter the reason,” Petrie said.
Petrie said students are able to charge a few days before receiving a stamp on their hand to notify their parents about the overdue balance.
“It bothers me to think that this ‘lunch shaming’ event happened at any school, because all they see is the financial aspect,” White said. “The school has no idea what these families are going through behind closed doors.”