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State

School districts can’t sue parents or guardians for non-payment of meals

A brown paper bag with the word "Lunch" underlined and a green apple
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Schools and school districts in New York state can no longer file a lawsuit over students' unpaid meals.

A new law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday is part of the governor’s “No Student Goes Hungry” program.

“Taking families to court over unpaid school meals is cruel, draconian, and runs counter to a school's fundamental mission to ensure the well-being of every student," Cuomo said in a statement, adding that the new law builds on his administration's work to end "lunch shaming."

In 2018, the state took action to make sure that students who did owe money for meals were not treated differently from students who paid on time. Some students were being singled out for owing money for meals by being forced to wear a sticker or bracelet; being identified over the school’s loudspeaker; or being given alternative, lesser-quality lunches, such as a cold cheese sandwich, when other students got hot lunches.

As part of the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, school meals provided through the National School Lunch Program will be provided free of charge to all students through June 2022.