June 19 (UPI) -- Rep. Ilhan Omar introduced a bill Wednesday to prevent schools from using indicators that identify students with school lunch debt.
The bill, known as the No Shame Against Schools Act, would prohibit schools from giving students with school lunch debt any form of identification such as tokens, stamps or wristbands as well as publishing lists of students with unpaid debts or using debt collectors to gather fees.
"Hunger and debt are a national problem and we as a federal government have a responsibility to outlaw this practice," Omar, D-Minn., said during a press conference introducing the bill. "What this bill does is very simple, it prohibits the punishment of shaming children who are unable to pay school meal fees."
The bill also authorizes the federal government to fund students' meal debt for up to 90 days.
"We know that going hungry is not a choice. No child chooses to skip a meal. And hunger in this country is not the result of scarcity, we are a nation with tremendous wealth," Omar said. "It is the result of a political system that says it is okay to spend money on tax breaks for millionaires and the same companies that tanked our economy while we let children go hungry in our school."
The bill comes as fundraisers to pay off students' meal debts and controversies surrounding student lunches -- including a New Hampshire cafeteria worker who was fired for giving a student a free meal -- have gained national attention.
Valerie Castile, the mother of cafeteria supervisor Philando Castile, who was fatally shot by police in 2016, has donated $8,000 to a Minnesota high school to settle school lunch debts in honor of her son.
"We need something to ensure that our children are taken care of," she said Wednesday, thanking Omar. "That's what my son stood for, taking care of those children that we entrusted him to do."
Omar was joined by New Mexico Democratic Reps. Ben Ray Lujan and Deb Haaland. Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., is expected to introduce a companion bill in the Senate.