New Mexico is the first state to ban the practice. Now the rest have till the end of the school year to adopt an official policy for what happens when parents miss meal payments.
Cara Valente, a state legislative analyst in New Mexico, knows what it's like to have her children punished because she missed a school lunch payment. At times, she and her husband had needed to wait until their next paychecks to cover the bill, even if that meant being a couple weeks late.
But that tardiness had consequences: Per school policy, her children couldn’t have the more expensive and nutritious meal.
“My kids were mad at us for not having paid the bill and causing them embarrassment,” Valente says. “I was angry because my kids were not doing as well in school as they could have been because they were hungry.”