The Student Voice of North Allegheny Senior High School

The Uproar

The Student Voice of North Allegheny Senior High School

The Uproar

The Student Voice of North Allegheny Senior High School

The Uproar

Opinion: The Inequity of Student Lunch Debt

Some states have already relieved families of the financial burden, and the U.S. has already proven that it can do so on a national scale.
Layla Musselman
Student lunch debt may not always be the result of poverty, but if we’ve already proven that it can be eliminated, it may be time to do so permanently.

This past summer, Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman (D-P)  co-sponsored the Universal School Meals Program Act of 2023 . The bill–written by Bernie Sanders (I-V)– would provide breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack to every school-aged child in the U.S.

“It’s downright cruel that we are letting our children in America go hungry” Fetterman said about his bill. “I am proud and honored to cosponsor this bill that will finally make sure our children are fed”. 

On September 25th, Fetterman, along with two of his colleagues, introduced the School Lunch Debt Cancelation Act, a bill that will cancel lunch debt for millions of children.

“‘School lunch debt’ is a term so absurd that it shouldn’t even exist” Fetterman said on the matter. “I’m proud to be introducing this bill to help working families now”. 

According to Feeding, 11 million children face food insecurity in the United States, with a half a million residing in Pennsylvania.

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)–one of the bill’s cosponsors–said. “No child in Rhode Island – or anywhere in America – should be penalized for not being able to afford school lunch.  It’s that simple”. 

This wouldn’t be the first time that American students would be given access to free school lunches and had their debt erased. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, students were given free lunches. The program ended in June of 2022 when plans to extend it rejected by Republican members of Congress. 

Student lunch debt in public schools leads to a system that isn’t very public at all.

But American families are still facing poverty due to both Covid and recent inflation. In fact, the amount of children living in poverty doubled in 2022, according to the newest U.S. Census information.

Giving school-age children free lunches could even the playing fields of success. Another of Fetterman’s co-sponsors  Pete Welch (D-V)  says that he and his colleagues “have a duty to ensure that every child is supported and respected.” 

For many American children, a debt-free lunch plan is the new norm, with states such as Minnesota, Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, Vermont, and Massachusetts all implementing  free school lunches just in time for the 2023-24 school year, following in the steps of California and Michigan. 

But nationwide school debt had climbed up to 262 million, with the average student owing 180 dollars. If passed, Fetterman’s bill would wipe that debt clean, relieving families of the extra financial burden. 

Of course, the elimination of lunch debt may prompt concerns from taxpayers. Should they bear the financial burden of other children’s lunches. Shouldn’t it be the parent’s responsibility? Perhaps some lunch debt is not the result of poverty but of irresponsible parenting.

Yet no matter the reason, no child should have to bear the burden of debt in school. Additionally, if multiple other states have eliminated the problem of school lunch debt and we’ve done so on a national scale before, then why can’t we do so permanently?

Student lunch debt puts kids in an awful situation at a vulnerable time in their lives. We shouldn’t be humiliating students at the lunch line or penalizing them for being born into poverty. Public schools in theory should be a way to even the playing field for all future success. After all, student lunch debt in public schools leads to a system that isn’t very public at all.


Editors’ note: All opinions expressed on The Uproar are a reflection solely of the beliefs of the bylined author and not the journalism program at NASH.  We continue to welcome school-appropriate comments and guest articles.


Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Layla Musselman, Staff Writer
Layla Raye Musselman is tired. She enjoys wearing glasses and silly little jackets.

Comments (0)

All The Uproar Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *