Spokane lawmaker proposes bill that could help end ‘lunch shaming’

A bill in the Washington legislature could help more schools and districts access funding for free and reduced lunches

OLYMPIA, Wash – In an effort to end the stigma of free and reduced lunches and to help more kids have access to food at school, Spokane Rep. Marcus Riccelli is sponsoring a bill in the legislature that would help schools and districts access federal aid.

Rep. Riccelli says Washington ranks 44th in the country for states accessing federal dollars, already set aside for school nutrition programs.

Under House Bill 2660, also known as the Hunger-Free Schools Act, the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction would have to notify schools, groups of schools, or entire school districts if more than 40 percent of student families use some form of public assistance. OSPI would then work with those schools to help apply for those federal dollars.

Eligible schools would then provide free lunches and breakfasts to all students at that school, possibly ending what has become known as “lunch shaming”; that’s the idea that kids who get free meals at school could be the target of bullying because of it.

If passed, this would go into effect in the 2020-2021 school year.

The bill was introduced Thursday and had its first reading; it was referred to the education committee.

Nearly 60 percent of students in Spokane Public Schools qualify for free or reduced lunch.