State law establishes a policy regarding unpaid meal charges that prohibits shaming and/or denying meals.
New Mexico Statutes 22-13C-4. Requirement to provide meals and ensure that eligible students are enrolled.
A. Regardless of whether or not a student has money to pay for a meal or owes money for earlier meals, a school:
- (1) shall provide a United States department of agriculture reimbursable meal to a student who requests one, unless the student's parent or guardian has specifically provided written permission to the school to withhold a meal; and
- (2) shall not require that a student throw away a meal after it has been served because of the student's inability to pay for the meal or because money is owed for earlier meals.
B. If a student owes money for five or more meals, a school shall:
- (1) check the state list of students categorically eligible for free meals to determine if the student is categorically eligible;
- (2) make at least two attempts, not including the application or instructions included in a school enrollment packet, to reach the student's parent or guardian and have the parent or guardian fill out a meal application; and
- (3) require a principal, assistant principal or counselor to contact the parent or guardian to offer assistance with a meal application, determine if there are other issues within the household that have caused the child to have insufficient funds to purchase a school meal and offer any other assistance that is appropriate.
New Mexico Statutes 22-13C-5. Anti-stigmatization and antidiscrimination practices.
A. A school shall not:
- (1) publicly identify or stigmatize a student who cannot pay for a meal or who owes a meal debt by, for example, requiring that a student wear a wristband or hand stamp; or
- (2) require a student who cannot pay for a meal or who owes a meal debt to do chores or other work to pay for meals; provided that chores or work required of all students regardless of a meal debt is permitted.
B. A school shall direct communications about a student's meal debt to a parent or guardian and not the student. Nothing in this subsection prohibits a school from sending a student home with a letter addressed to a parent or guardian.
New Mexico Statutes 22-13C-6. Debt collection practices; uncollectable debt.
A school shall not require a parent or guardian to pay fees or costs from collection agencies hired to collect a meal debt.
New Mexico Statutes 22-13C-7. Applicability.
The Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights Act applies to a public school district, a public school, a private school or a religious school that participates in the national school lunch program or school breakfast program.