No One Wins With A ‘School Lunch Tax’

Carolyn Martin

Recently, a New Jersey school district has implemented a, “school lunch tax,” in which some students would be unable to attend extracurricular activities, such as homecoming and prom, if they owe money towards school lunch. According to The Hill, “students with a negative balance will be able to get a hot meal, but not a la carte items. The[n] if debt goes over $75, high school students will be prohibited from going to school dances, including prom until the debt is fully repaid.”

While the idea of losing out on prom might already may be scary enough to some, the new rule goes further than making students miss out on unforgettable moments. Students are now being labelled as the bad guy for their inability to afford a meal, which is much worse.

While the new rule continues to allow students, in this district, to enjoy a hot meal, even after they surpass their debt, the school will continue to add any charges to the already hefty tab. The fact of the matter is, an adolescent being punished for not being able to afford lunch is a disgrace to schooling every where.

High school students should be focusing on making lifelong friends and trying to get into a higher education institution, not thinking about if they can afford the debt created by receiving their next meal.

It is also important to keep in mind not every students is born with the same privileges. Often times, those growing up in disproportionately funded communities suffer from food insecurity and rely on their local schools for their daily meals of breakfast and lunch.

According to No Kid Hungry Organization, about 22 million school children count the free or reduced-price lunch they receive at school but over 3 million of those children aren’t getting the breakfast they need because of the way it’s served in schools.

Forcing those students to not only pay for lunch, but be given punishments for not being able to afford the cost is simply cruel. Being forced to work a part-time job in order to receive a meal at school is not a situation any student should be forced into. By adding a debt to this already, unfavorable situation, it only leaves young people suffering more.

Unfortunately for many students, this is not just an issue at the high school level nor is it occurring just in the Cherry Hill district of New Jersey.

According to CNN, 75% of all U.S. school districts report a student meal debt, similar to the system set in place within Cherry Hill public schools. Furthermore, the news source states that the average amount of student meal debt per district is $2,5000 while some areas have reached as high as $856,000.

School districts scattered across the country should not be making paying off lunch debt a priority to their students. Rather than target the money their students owe, these institutions should look into how many of their students are leaving their schools hungry.

Eating food should be a right, not a privilege.

Besides, it’s not like a deprived 14-year-old living in a single-parent household is going to impact the economy so much because they couldn’t afford their chicken nuggets every Thursday.