Food security

Schools face backlash for "shaming" students over lunch debt

Illustration of a school lunch tray full of food in a prison cell
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Schools across the country are cracking down on school lunch debt, and some are getting public and political backlash for "shaming" low-income students who haven't paid their lunch tabs with tactics such as threatening to put them and their siblings in foster care and using collection agencies.

Why it matters: Children from low-income families can qualify for free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch at their schools, which receive federal funds for the meals served. As national demographics shift and budgets are stretched, some school districts are seeing an influx of eligible students, creating enrollment delays, errors and negative balances.

Seniors are increasingly going hungry

Nearly 8% of Americans 60 and older were "food insecure" in 2017, according to a study by Feeding America. This translates to 5.5 million seniors — a number that has more than doubled since 2001, Time reports with Kaiser Health News.

The state of play: The number of hungry seniors has risen along with our awareness of the social determinants of health. While keeping people fed is important, it's also cheaper than caring for them down the line when they're sick — which is often what happens to people who don't have the food they need to live a healthy life.