I suffer excruciating heartbreak whenever I hear a child has been humiliated, embarrassed and emotionally hurt for all his or her peers to see because the parents owe money for lunch at school.

It's true, some Minnesota school districts were actually going to refuse high school seniors "with outstanding lunch debt" from graduation ceremonies. I had an on-air meltdown when in Pennsylvania, a school district sent letters to the parents of about 1,000 students with unpaid lunch debt stating they could face a judge with the possibility of "your child being removed from your home and placed in foster care."

No school anywhere in this nation should be allowed to single out any age student with lunch debt, period. Can you believe it's taken this long for Massachusetts to close out the days that forbids schools from using any outrageous and punitive actions against students with meal debt?

Today, the Beacon Hill lawmakers were celebrating the signing of An Act Promoting Student Nutrition, new legislation that stipulates any school or district to provide the means for universal free breakfast and lunch for all students, if a majority of its students meet low-income criteria.

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It's been very slow to change, as these school meal programs have been under tremendous pressure to be self-supporting, but I've always felt that since the feds contribute about eight percent funding, and the rest paid for by a combination of state sales, income taxes, lotteries and property taxes, school meals should be fully included in that money.

I absolutely could never stomach the practice when cafeteria staff were instructed to take the tray of food away from any student carrying meal debt once they had gone through the line and reached the cashier.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at phil@wbsm.com. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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Using government and news reports, Stacker has traced the history of cafeteria meals from their inception to the present day, with data from news and government reports. Read on to see how various legal acts, food trends, and budget cuts have changed what kids are getting on their trays.

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