You Are Where You Eat: Discrimination in the National School Lunch Program

Anna Karnaze | November 26, 2018

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP) serves over thirty million children daily in over one hundred thousand schools across the United States. Though it is regulated at the federal level, state and local education agencies have a great deal of authority when it comes to actually implementing the NSLP. As a result, a number of schools nationwide have adopted practices that identify students who participate in the NSLP, which causes those students to experience stigmatization. This Note focuses on two of these practices: (1) the physical separation of paying and nonpaying students in the cafeteria, often resulting in de facto racial segregation, and (2) the practice of “shaming” students who are unable to pay for their meals. Given that minority students participate in the NSLP at a disproportionately high rate, this Note explores whether these state and local practices could potentially form the basis of an actionable claim of disparate impact under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.