Minnesota schools can no longer give students alternate meals due to lunch debt
An opinion from Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison means schools across the state can no longer give students a different meal because they have an unpaid debt.
The Minnesota Department of Education requested a formal opinion from Ellison to determine if alternate meals some schools provide if a student hasn’t paid a lunch bill violates state law.
Thursday, Ellison sent his opinion, which is immediately binding under state law unless a court rules otherwise.
While schools can’t refuse to serve students lunch altogether, some schools have been known to give students peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or another meal that differs from the scheduled lunch menu if that student has an outstanding lunch debt.
Ellison determined that violates Minnesota law by giving differential treatment to students and limiting access to aspects of school life based on meal debt.
“This is an important step forward for our students and our families,” MDE Commissioner Heather Mueller said in a statement Friday. “Every student deserves to be treated with dignity and fed while they’re at school. Differential treatment, lunch shaming or otherwise demeaning or stigmatizing the student for unpaid meal balances must not continue. We will continue to work to ensure all schools have the resources so all children have access to free meals while at school.”
“Minnesota law is clear: students whose families are struggling to afford their lives cannot be denied a regular school lunch or offered a substandard alternate meal in place of a regular lunch,” Ellison added. “That practice is another form of ‘lunch shaming’ that is an affront to the dignity of those students and is not allowed under the law.”
Ellison’s full opinion can be read here.