A bill was introduced in South Carolina to amend the code of laws from 1976 whereby public schools, public school districts, charter schools, and charter school governing bodies may no longer use debt collection agencies to collect or attempt to collect outstanding debts on student school lunch or breakfast accounts. Nor can these entities assess or collect any interest fees or other such monetary penalties for outstanding debts.

Today, there are an estimated 17 million children struggling with hunger in America – 6 million more than before the pandemic. And 2.7 million more families are going hungry. For many of these children, the food they are given at school is the only nourishment they receive during the day.

I believe that this bill does not go far enough. We have a duty to ensure that every child has a safe and nurturing environment in which they can grow and prosper. Food is one of the most basic needs – not a luxury but a need for survival. Each state must find in its budget the money to feed all school-age children so no child goes hungry.

And putting this on an equal footing whereby all children are given a free breakfast and lunch, and not just children in need, will eliminate the embarrassment children face from their peers and others when requesting free food. I personally knew of many children growing up who refused to get assistance because they didn’t want others to look at them differently. We must provide the basic needs of children while they are at school.

The General Assembly passed the change into law during the most recent legislative session, through unanimous votes in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and Gov. Henry McMaster signed it.

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