Bill would end 'lunch shaming' in Oregon schools

FILE - Schoolchildren eat lunch in a cafeteria. (Amanda Mills / USCDCP)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KATU) - A bill on the way to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's desk would end the practice of "lunch shaming" in schools around the state.

The State Senate unanimously approved House Bill 3454 Monday, which would require Oregon schools to provide lunch to all students, regardless of their ability to pay.

It also aims to stop schools from giving students alternative meals that are typically less nutritious than regular lunches if students have unpaid lunch debt. That act has led to a nationwide trend of "lunch shaming."

Some schools even force students to wear identifiable wristbands or stickers when they can't afford lunch.

More than 75 percent of U.S. school districts have students with unpaid lunch debt.

A Portland man raised nearly $30,000 to erase lunch debt for all Portland Public Schools students earlier this year.

Sean Brendan Saxton said he attended Markham Middle School in Portland years ago and had to spend some recesses working in the cafeteria to pay for the lunch his mother couldn't afford.

"We couldn't afford new shoes. We couldn't afford new clothes. I've got a little brown bag. I don't fit in with some of these other kids that were much more affluent than I," he said.

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