Welcome to Kindness is Magic Inc!
One in six children in Pennsylvania suffers from hunger. Over 480,000 children in our state alone do not have the security of knowing when their next meal will be. These children often come to school hungry. As a result, they are (1) more likely to struggle academically due to the inability to concentrate, (2) more susceptible to illness(es) because they are malnourished, and (3) more at risk to develop social and behavioral problems such as anxiety and depression. As one of the wealthiest nations in the world, there is no reason why a balanced healthy meal should stand between a child and their education.
Lunch Shaming – the act of holding children accountable for unpaid school lunch debt by discarding their full lunch tray, placing a stamp on their hand that reads “I need lunch money,” or substituting a warm meal with a cold cheese sandwich alternative. Unfortunately, these shaming techniques have been widespread in school districts across the United States for years. In 2017, The New York Times published a startling exposé on the practice (Shaming Children So Parents Will Pay the School Lunch Bill) — opening many parents’ eyes to this ongoing problem. Too frequently, heartbreaking stories emerge: children choosing to go hungry rather than face public embarrassment in the cafeteria, children being singled out in their classrooms by cafeteria staff who are distributing debt notices, children barred from school activities until their parents can afford to pay an unpaid lunch bill.
Pennsylvania law makers have been actively changing laws to protect our children from hunger and lunch shaming. School districts have been adopting new policies to address the mounting student lunch debt– aiming to shift the burden of financial responsibility from the child to the parent. However, some districts in our local community continue to allow outstanding debt affect a student’s permanent record until senior year of high school. For example, if a student has a negative balance upon graduation, they will not be permitted to participate in commencement activities until the debt is satisfied. Many districts also restrict the number of meals a child is allowed to charge. For example, in one district, children in grades 6th – 12th may charge one meal, while in another district, children in grades 9th – 12th are unable to do so.
Schools are the foundation of our community, and our children spend the majority of their young lives there. For many children, school environments are their first encounter with socialization. It is where they learn how to interact with their peers and are introduced to the wonders of the vast world around them. It is also where they develop the ability to think independently and where they can discover the humanity and compassion that lives inside them. We have to question the values we instill in the heart’s of our children when we place adult responsibilities on their shoulders. At Kindness is Magic Inc. we believe every child–regardless of family background or economic status–should have access to a warm, nutritious meal during the school day. We are committed to taking action to raise necessary funds to pay off student lunch debt in our community.