In the world's richest nation, a growing crisis casts a shadow on its education system: school lunch debt. "[A] term so absurd that it shouldn't even exist," according to Pennsylvania senator John Fetterman.
It affects millions of school children across the country -- the total public school meal debt is $262 million a year. This number is outrageous. No child should be burdened with financial debt for simply being fed at school.
Thankfully, there is a potential solution, introduced by Senator Fetterman himself. A Senate bill, called the "School Lunch Debt Cancellation Act," would require the United States Department of Agriculture to pay for all school lunch and breakfast debt owed by students.
Sign the petition to demand the Senate pass the School Lunch Debt Cancellation Act!
The shocking amount of school lunch debt each year isn't just a financial statistic -- each number represents a child, facing both hunger and humiliation by the institutions that should be supporting and protecting them. We are the richest country in the world, but are more than willing to nickel-and-dime literal children. And yes, it is a willingness on the part of lawmakers -- in 2022, when a Covid-era policy ensuring universal free lunch was set to expire, Republican lawmakers actively blocked efforts to extend it.
Hunger is more than a slight inconvenience. Studies show that hunger negatively affects learning a great deal, impacting children's energy levels, ability to concentrate, memory, and even their social behavior. A child's early success in school has everything to do with larger life outcomes like employment, housing, and health. We are utterly failing our nation's kids for their entire lifetimes if we let them go hungry, even for a short time.
We must ensure that no student is compelled to skip essential meals out of fear, or bear feelings of guilt and anxiety over unpaid meal debts.
Sign the petition to demand the Senate pass this bill to ensure a future where every child in the U.S. can eat without the shadow of debt or humiliation!