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Each day, sometimes twice a day, children line up at the school cafeteria. They eagerly chat about which meal they are going to order; the burger, french toast, or fruit salad all sound good! Once they get to the cashier, the mood quickly changes. It becomes embarrassment and horror as they are labeled with debt when the register flashed with a negative balance. To add to this, the meal that excites them is taken away. It is replaced with a simple sandwich made from two pieces of white bread and a slice of American cheese. This bullying happens more often than not, and is a little known issue in the United States. Without a doubt this bullying due to lack of funding is unacceptable, and breaks our hearts at Unified Caring Association (UCA). We would like to raise awareness about this form of bullying.
What is school lunch debt shaming?
“Lunch Shaming” refers to identifying and placing a stigma on a student who does not have money to buy a school meal. This is often referring to children in K-12th grade, who get their breakfast or lunch at school. “While the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) narrowly applies this overt identification to students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch, in practice legal lunch shaming occurs against students whose family income exceeds free or reduced lunch eligibility thresholds.” (American Bar Association) Lunch debt shaming’s purpose is to embarrass a student and subsequently their parent(s) so that the debt is paid quickly, making it so that the school has less financial burden. Both students who do not qualify for free school meals through the National School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program but qualify for reduced-price school meals $0.30/day (breakfast) and $0.40/day (lunch) or those that do not qualify for subsidised meal programs can accrue lunch debt.
It comes in many forms…
Think about the memes where people take pictures of their pets with signs shaming them for what they did wong, such as chewing up all the toilet paper rolls in the bathroom. Or, like this one below:
Now apply this tactic to an elementary school kid. Their hand now has a stamp stating “Not Enough Money.” Less funny? We would agree.
Other stories that can be found in the news include throwing the child’s meal away after it had been served if they cannot pay. It appears that some schools even offer different meals to the children who have school lunch debt, such as PBJ’s instead of the hot meal. Or, there have been reports of schools barring the kids with lunch debt from participating in afterschool activities. Or threatening the kids with other actions such as placing them in foster care. These unacceptable actions vary because there is no set baselines for unpaid meal fees in the meal programs’ policies for the school districts by The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
How can we solve it?
There are so many ways that we can help solve the issue of school lunch debt. Jeffery Lew gives a great summary on how we can be more proactive in the short and long term in eliminating lunch debt shaming. Lew suggests being active in raising funds through crowdfunding, such as Go Fund Me, to help those in immediate need. Other ways are by the schools notifying the parents of the student meal accounts. This can be done by paper notifications sent home with the kids, or by email. Some schools can even set up automatic notifications to the parents’ mobile devices.
Watch the full TedTalk!
Other things we can do. We can share information about meal programs for kids at school, such as National School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program. Unified Caring Association has also worked with Great Northern Services (GNS) who has a summer lunch program to help feed students while school is not in session.
Overall, Lew sums it up when he comments how kids and debt should not be in the same sentence. And bullying children to get a message to the parents is unacceptable. With a supportive, inclusive, and caring community we can help remove lunch shaming debt from schools, we can further focus on growing caring children.
Moonbeam for Emotions
On the adventure of life, we have a slew of emotions that can be difficult to understand. Unified Caring Association (UCA) has a tool to help us all out: Moonbeam Feeling Pack. Moonbeam is a way for us to begin understanding and harnessing emotions, to reach goals, and to connect with others in new and enlightening ways that can fill out hearts with joy!
Moonbeam Feeling Pack
UCA has a wonderful and caring tool to help us identify feelings. Creative cards depict a range of emotions from sadness to happiness and stressed to enlightened. Moonbeam, the easy-to-remember name of the character, helps illuminate connections between emotions we are having. The deck of cards includes 144 emotion cards with Moonbeam images. This deck has 72 heavy emotions and the corresponding positive emotions to help the user learn how to transmute our emotions. To further assist the user, there is a feeling dictionary with definitions of all the emotions in this deck of cards. When we “face” our feelings, we can use them for good. We can find our way to better self-care, wellness, happiness, and wisdom.
Emotional intelligence (E.Q.) is a field of study that can be thought of a lot like intelligence quota (I.Q.) in the sense that we can develop and train our minds to become increasingly smarter and our hearts to recognize emotions. One example of E.Q. in action is through the ability to keep emotions, like stress, from overtaking or disrupting our lives. With clear understanding of what E.Q. is, we are better equipped to manage life and all stressors it can contain. There are many different models designed by psychologists for emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman’s is the one that is most often referenced. Five key areas of emotional intelligence are outlined as: self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Understanding our emotions ties into self-management. This skill involves the ability to reflect upon your emotions and better make choices.
To help grow caring children, teens, and skills sets like E.Q., UCA’s Moonbeam Feeling Pack is a key resource. This pack is available online in our Caring Community Store. This tool will help develop life skills in communication with others and ourselves. Once we can own and harness these feelings, we can promote healing, authenticity and positivity in ourselves and our caring communities. “Being emotionally smart means being able to feel and deal with emotions [yours and other people’s].” (Unified Caring Association)
Developing E.Q. is a lot like meditation, gratitude journaling, or other healthy habits. They all take conscious practice with the intention to better our lives. Try these steps for 21 days to develop a habit of strengthening your emotional intelligence skills.
OR at the start of each morning….
Emotions can be confusing for us in the moment, but with time and practice we can better navigate them. One resource that we can use is the Moonbeam Feeling Pack and Dictionary found on Unified Caring Association’s website. With this tool, we can practice identifying and transmuting emotions while strengthening our emotional Intelligence. Once we begin to understand emotions (ours and those of others) we can more fully and honestly communicate with others, our caring communities, and the world.