Sept. 7 (UPI) — The New York City Department of Education, the largest school district in the United States, will offer free lunch to each one of its more than 1.1 million students beginning this year.
The move was made by the New York City Council to prevent the embarrassment of children who can’t afford to pay their unpaid lunch bills, which is sometimes referred to as “lunch shaming,” reported the New York Times.
Members of the council said that some students choose to go hungry rather than face the stigma of getting embarrassed because they can’t afford to pay for lunch, even though more than 75 percent of New York City public school students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
“Free School Lunch for All will provide financial relief to families and ensure all students are receiving nutritious meals so that they can succeed in the classroom and beyond,” said Carmen Fariña, the chancellor for the NYCDE.
The cost of a lunch in New York City public schools is $1.75 and the initiative is expected to save families $300 per year.
Several other cities have already begun to offer free lunch to all students in order to avoid the stigma of lunch shaming, including Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Dallas.
However, many schools still enact an array of measures to get students to pay for their lunch. In Alabama last year, a third-grader who couldn’t pay a lunch bill was given a stamp on his arm that said, “I need lunch money,” reported AL.com.
New York City councilman Ben Kallos said he remembers the stigma he felt as a child when he couldn’t afford lunch.
“I had to choose between friends and food,” Kallos said. “I hope no child makes the same poor choices I did.”