Pflugerville ISD changes school lunch policy after parent witnesses child being "lunch shamed"

Pflugerville ISD is making a major change to their lunch policy after a parent witnessed a child being “lunch shamed." The woman says she also is raising money to pay off the district's lunch debt.

She says the incident that brought this to the limelight was unfortunate, but the fact that it happened has caused the district to reevaluate their practices and that was her goal.

Pamela Zuniga was in the breakfast line with her little boy at Brookhollow Elementary.

“About a couple of kids ahead of us was a little girl who was obviously in distress, she was crying,” Zuniga said. “I looked up and at that time I seen the lunchroom lady pulling the cereal off her tray and replacing it with a piece of toast. She continued to cry.”

Zuniga quickly asked what was going on...and what she could do to help.

“They notified me she was delinquent in her lunch account and I asked if I could pay for her breakfast that day and they denied me of paying for her breakfast,” Zuniga said. “They weren't allowed by law to tell me exactly the amount that she was delinquent.”

Zuniga was nothing short of heartbroken. 

“Hurt, sad, mad...I was very mad...not at anyone in particular, just mad this was happening to her,” Zuniga said. “She shouldn't even know anything about finances, or what's happening at home.”

Shortly after the incident, the district emailed parents, letting them know of a policy change. Going forward, no child will ever have to eat an alternative lunch again. All will be provided the same hot meal, regardless of a negative balance.

“I was super, super happy. I’m happy the district responded so quickly and implemented this so now we know our students aren't just going to have to eat toast or a cold cheese sandwich for lunch,” Zuniga said. “Kids are definitely going to joke about you eating a cold cheese sandwich. Kids are cruel these days.”

Zuniga feels the school district made a move in the right direction, but she hopes to get to the root of the problem in the near future. For starters, she wants to clear the district's lunch debt.

“Everyone deserves a nutritional meal,” Zuniga said. “These kids need to be focused on their studies.”

Pflugerville ISD sent this statement out to parents last week:

Dear PfISD Parents and Guardians,
I want to inform you of a district-wide change to our lunchroom practices. Recently, we had a parent email us with a concern about the alternate entree provided to students who have already reached the maximum negative balance on their account. I am pleased to say that district staff has revisited this policy and, in keeping with our vision to do what is best for children, we have eliminated the alternate lunch entree.
Pflugerville ISD is committed to ensuring that all students are provided with the proper nutrition to perform at their best. Therefore, all students will receive the option of a hot entree regardless of their lunch account balance, and the cost of the meal will be added to their lunch debt. We encourage any families who are experiencing financial difficulty to complete the Free and Reduced Meal Application and submit it to Aramark, our food service provider. Aramark accepts the applications continuously throughout the year. A link to the Application can be found on the district’s website:
District staff will continue to work with our students and their families to identify any other challenges that they might be experiencing and provide any assistance which may be available through the district. We are committed to supporting the whole student, and ensuring each student has access to a hot meal is one way we can help our students and their families. We appreciate this matter being brought to our attention and encourage all parents to contact their campus or our district administration with any questions, concerns or suggestions they may have. Only by working together can we fulfill our mission of empowering every student to reach their full potential.
In the Best Interest of Children,
Dr. Doug Killian

The district's lunch debt is $15,000. Anyone wanting to donate can click here