Three out four public school teachers say that students regularly come to school hungry in the United States. The National School Lunch Program was created to ensure that children were provided nutritious meals. But today, in some places, lunch workers are forced to throw away a child’s hot meal if the family owes money to the school. And there are times where the tray is taken straight out of the child’s hands. In other states, children wear wristbands or are required to do chores if they have an unpaid bill and want to eat. This is what some call “lunch shaming”,  a practice many lawmakers are working to combat.


India has the largest free school lunch programme in the world. A controversial policy has many families concerned that more than 100 million children could lose their mid-day meal. Recently, the government announced most students will have to show their Aadhaar, or national identity card, in order to be served. Government officials say the card is meant to ensure transparency and to improve access to various social services in a smooth manner. But food rights advocates say this a violation of a Supreme Court ruling that found mid-day meals in government-assisted primary schools to be a fundamental right.


At least 368 million children from different economic backgrounds rely on government offered meals globally, according to the World Food Programme. And research suggests both students and the region benefit from the provision of school meals. For many young people, it is the only food they will have all day. But like the US and India, not every country has been able to develop the effective framework to make these initiatives nutritious and sustainable. In this episode, we speak with those working to ensure students focus on their studies and not their growling stomachs. 

In this episode of The Stream, we speak with: 

Lucy Melcher @lucymelcher
Director of Advocacy and Government Relations, No Kid Hungry

Rodney Taylor @r1taylor
Director of Food and Nutrition Services, Fairfax County Public Schools

Carmen Burbano de Lara @BurbanoCarmen
Representative and Country Director, WFP Peru
Lead author of WFP’s global report on school feeding

Swati Narayan @SNavatar
Food rights activist

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.