When it comes to children being hungry, you would think the harmful effects could not get much worse than purely physical hunger pains. Shockingly, some school districts inadvertently saddle children with psychological pain as well as the physical feeling of hunger.
In some situations, children are allowed to feel the shame that often comes with not being able to afford to pay for one’s meals. Though it is an adult responsibility to ensure that children are properly fed, “lunch shaming” ends up punishing the children instead of the actual guilty party.
Kevin Holt retired from the U.S. Army after over 32 years of service. For the last few years, he has been a special education teacher in Central Texas.
As a former medic, mechanic, and helicopter pilot in the Army, Holt has likely seen many things that would be considered shocking. Yet, this situation shocked and saddened him, too, and it happened in a school cafeteria.
Not only did this situation take place within the walls of a school, but a 4-year-old girl was the victim. Breakfast, the most important meal of the day, was being served.
The young girl stood in line with her breakfast tray, waiting for her PIN to be scanned. When she reached the cashier, the cashier announced out loud to the child that she had no money.
As if being told she had no money was not embarrassing enough, the cashier then took the tray away from the girl. She dumped out the food and took away the milk right in front of the 4-year-old’s eyes.
Holt, who was a substitute teacher at the school that day, was shocked by the cruelty of what he had just witnessed. Unfortunately, he was not carrying any cash or otherwise he would have paid the $1.50 needed to buy her breakfast.
Holt felt as if somebody had punched him in the stomach as he watched the girl sit at a table, crying, surrounded by peers eating their breakfast meals. He was rightly concerned that her last meal was likely dinner eaten 12 hours ago.
According to WFMY, Holt said, “Insult to injury is the fact that they dump the food in the presence of the child. The message that sends to a child is ‘I care about my bottom line. I don’t care about you or your feelings or your hunger.’”
After witnessing the little girl’s breakfast being thrown out in front of her, he knew what his next move needed to be. While one’s initial response may be to blame the cashier, Holt knew the problem ran much deeper with school policy and Texas law.
He created a petition inviting others to participate in amending the current law to one that would require school districts to not use account balances as a reason to withhold the regular meals being served to their students. Often times, students are singled out like the little girl was and served a modified meal of lesser quality, like a cold cheese sandwich.
Meal shaming, especially in a place where young children should be focused on learning, is a heartbreaking issue. Thankfully, caring teachers such as Holt have shed light on the issue and given everyone the chance to step up and help ensure that no child will go hungry or be shamed at school for not having lunch money.
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