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Lunch debt legislation headed to Youngkin's desk

Governor Glenn Youngkin is now considering legislation that's passed the House and the Senate. One of those bills is about school lunch debt.

The horror stories about lunch debt are almost unbelievable. During testimony in committee hearings this year, students explained how the fear of lunch debt created huge problems. Adele Settle with Settle the Debt brought this issue to the attention of lawmakers.

"Kids who were involved in athletics would actually go hungry and not get meals if they didn't have the money to pay for it and would just be hungry instead of risking lunch debt so that they would be excluded from their sports meets," Settle explains.

Delegate Danica Roem has been working this issue for years; stopping schools from sending parents to collections, for example. Or preventing schools from offering students "alternative meals" like a cheese sandwich instead of a hot meal. Her latest bill prohibits schools from excluding students from extracurricular activities because of lunch debt.

"Feeding hungry kids is something that we should all be able to agree on," Roem says. "And at a time of very intense partisanship in Richmond, I like to think that the idea of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and the House coming together to feed kids is one of those things where we get to go home to our district and say, 'Hey we did something productive that's actually good.’"

The bill has passed the House and the Senate and is now on its way to the governor's desk.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.