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Lunch bill makes New Mexico a better place

Have you read about the “Anti-Lunch Shaming” bill that passed the New Mexico Legislature during the most recent general session and was signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez? Its actual title is “The Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights Act,” and it has received some local attention and significant national media coverage, including in the New York Times, and on CNN, NBC Nightly News and the Today Show. It has even been featured in several international media outlets, such as Le Monde and The Telegraph.

The impetus for the bill, the first of its kind to be passed in this country, was the practice by some schools of requiring a child who could not pay for his/her lunch to either throw the food away or work to pay off the debt. This practice and a legislative solution was brought to the attention of legislators by New Mexico Appleseed, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization working for policy changes that will reduce poverty in our state.

We, as members of the board of directors of New Mexico Appleseed, learned several lessons from the passage of this legislation. The more obvious fact is that New Mexicans do not condone punishing or humiliating children as a result of their parents’ inability or refusal to pay the lunch bill.

Perhaps the more important take-away, however, is the value of working together in a non-partisan collaboration to reach the goal of making New Mexico a better place to be a child. While so many leaders here in our state and on the national level are engaged in petty wrangling and partisan one-upmanship, we believe that beneficial policy change is more likely to be achieved by working in concert with people who ascribe to different political philosophies.

We hope that amid all the media attention the passage of this bill has received, the message of non-partisan collaboration is heard.

We believe it is often better to come together to do what’s right than to stand apart and fail to act.

We are pleased that our efforts have put New Mexico No. 1 on a good list.

This letter was signed by the other members of the Appleseed Board of Directors.