Milford adopts ‘no-shaming’ policy for students with unpaid meal charges

Joseph A. Foran High School in Milford.

Joseph A. Foran High School in Milford.

Contributed photo

MILFORD — A new school policy ensures that students whose parents or guardians have unpaid meal charges in their account are not shamed or treated differently, according to administrators.

“This is a brand new policy, and it comes before us as the result of new legislation that deals with what has become known as shaming,” said James Richetelli, school district chief of operations. “That is how you treat a student that has an unpaid balance in the food service accounts.”

A goal of the Milford Board of Education and Milford Public Schools is to provide students with access to nutritious no-or-low-cost meals every day, he added.

Richetelli said the district, by state law, must come up with a policy on how it handles unpaid balances and students who need to charge their meals.

Eileen Faustich, director of food services, said the district has always had a lunch credit policy, but it wasn’t required to have a board policy until the new legislation required it this year for the first time.

“We want to make sure every child can have lunch or breakfast whether they have money in their account or not,” said Faustich. “We have always made sure we are not shaming a child, that we would always feed them.”

The policy prohibits the public identification or shaming of a student for any unpaid charges, including, but not limited to, delaying or refusing to serve a meal to the student, designating a specific meal option for the student or taking disciplinary action against the student.

“We can’t shame a child or give them a different meal or in any way single them out or embarrass them because they don’t have any money in their account,” said Faustich. “That is what is outlined in this policy, and it also specifies how many meals (30 meals) we can give the student before we refer the account to our homeless liaison.”

Unpaid meals charges have not been a significant problem in the past because Faustich and her team send reminders to get in touch with parents.

“With all the efforts we take to give parents an opportunity to put money in the accounts, it hasn’t been an issue in the past,” said Faustich. “The only concern we have is that this Connecticut new law that went into effect doesn’t allow us to limit the number of meals that students can charge.”

Faustich said this policy is irrelevant this year because the schools offer breakfast or lunch to all students free.

“Nobody has to worry about if they have money in their account because we feed everyone,” she said. “But it is limited to one meal. So if our free meals for all doesn’t get extended past June 30 of this year, then we would go back to using the children’s account and having parents putting money into their account.”