Lunch Policy SOMA
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I am one of over 600 members of SOMA Justice: Addressing Race and Inequality and I am speaking on behalf of the leadership of this local group as well as (PARES) Parents in Partnership for Respect & Equality in SOMA Schools. Members of this group are committed not only to feeding SOMA students lunch, but also to preventing lunch shaming in our district. We are committed to providing SOMA students with the plated school lunch. Members have donated thousands of dollars to a school district account designed for this purpose. We want to prevent any student from getting to the front of the lunch line, only to be turned away and given a lesser lunch or no lunch at all. Aside from students needing to eat to learn, we believe that any student's sense of community and belonging can be wiped out in that moment of being turned away from the lunch line.
The current policy and the proposed revision do not reflect the good, hard work that we, Karen Weiland at the Parenting Center and Paul Roth have put into ensuring every SOMA student gets a school lunch. The Board may not realize the commitment that school employees and the community have already made to this cause. We have seen teachers and principals buy students their lunch. We have had strangers ask us how they can contribute to this fund. We, as a group, are now asking the Board to make a statement that condemns lunch shaming and shows its commitment to supporting families that fall through the cracks of the existing food safety net.
In addition, we respectfully request the following three specific changes to the policy:
1) In the first paragraph, add a phrase recognizing that the failure to bring lunch or money may not be forgetfulness on the part of the student. Especially since lunch accounts are filled online, significant arrears in a lunch account more often reflect financial need of the family.
2) In the second paragraph, remove the word "basic" from the description of the lunch that will be provided to students whose accounts are in arrears. Even without this word, the district has the flexibility to provide any lunch that meets legal requirements. But removing the word "basic" makes sure that lunch shaming is not built into the district policy.
3) In the third paragraph, delete everything after the first sentence. Everyone in New Jersey is a mandatory reporter of child abuse or neglect. Of course SOMA schools report child abuse and neglect in accordance with legal requirements. There is no need to reference DCP&P in a policy about lunch charges and it should be struck from this policy.
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