November 18, 2019
Greetings, District 7 community:
Today, I formally introduced the No More SHAME Act (Draft Board Policy 5210 - Universal Meals Program for Early Childhood, Primary, and Intermediate Grade Levels) to the Prince George's County Board of Education and Dr. Monica E. Goldson, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Prince George's County Public Schools (PGCPS).
For months, I have been in conversations with, both, our administrative team and our neighbors here in District 7 about the idea...the moral conviction of combating food insecurity and ending the practice of "meal shaming" in our school system. After lengthly discussions and fiscal analysis, I authored the No More SHAME Act with the goal of implementation for the 2020-2021 school year.
This initiative is personal for me. As many recall, less than a year ago, I wrote a letter to our CEO, during the middle of the nation's most recent government shutdown, requesting that the meal costs for our students be waived as a means of tackling any financial hardships that our families may have been under. What I received in return went far beyond my humble ask. Our community partners, both publicly and privately, throughout our county, state, and region gave of their treasures to meet this goal of nutritional assistance - to the tune of more than 10,000 meals covered.
While this communal generosity warmed my heart, as I am sure it did for many others, after receiving numerous constituent concerns about the mistreatment of students who were unable to meet the costs of a hot, nutritious meal in our elementary schools, and after learning that many of our immigrant families feared filling out federal aid forms to assist with food insecurity, it was clear that there needed to be further, permanent action to shift the culture of our cafeterias.
It is my belief that our youngest children, the babies of our school system, regardless of what zip code they arrive to our schools from, need not worry about the level of funds their parent(s)/guardian(s) may have placed on their accounts or the embarrassment and bullying that occurs when classmates see a meal taken from them, discarded, and then handed a cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It is also my belief that our school staff members should not have to budget, whether through the school's funding or their personal pockets, for ways to reduce the times students end up with a large enough fiscal deficit on their accounts that a meal is taken away from them.
The Board of Education for Prince George's County must see a child's hunger as just as big of a barrier to academic excellence as any other required educational tool. A student's empty stomach is just as dangerous to their success in school as is a student's empty mind and we, by policy and morality, shall provide the necessary support to fill both.
I look forward to bringing this draft policy up for discussion to the Board's Policy Committee in the near future. To read my full Letter of Submission to our Board Chairman and CEO, please click here. The full draft policy is below. To show your support for this initiative, please submit a Letter of Support via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Your, sincerely, in service,
K. Alexander Wallace
Board Member, District 7