New state bill would feed students even if they can't pay

WATCH: New bill would feed students even if they can't pay

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A bill co-sponsored by a state senator from Memphis will try to end hunger in public schools, allowing students in need to still eat if they can’t pay.

The bill is called The Tennessee Student Hunger Free Act.

That’s mainly because more than 83,000 students in Shelby County receive free or reduced lunch. That’s the most in the state.

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SCS parent and volunteer Helen Collins told FOX13 a child left hungry at school should be a crime.

"A child that doesn't eat is a child that is left behind. A child that doesn't eat can't function,” Collins said.

On Wednesday, state leaders listened to the details of the Tennessee Student Hunger Free Act.

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The bill would make sure every student on reduced lunch is given the opportunity to eat whether paying or not.

The bill also points out the student won’t be punished for not paying or owing for past breakfast and lunch meals.

"Just feed them, it's not their responsibility, it's not their fault they can't eat. It is somebody’s fault when they don't eat,” Collins said.

This bill specifies that a student must not be held personally responsible for a meal debt, regardless of the student's age when the meal debt was incurred.

The bill states a school must not require a student's parent or guardian to pay fees or costs from collection agencies hired to collect a meal debt.

"I think it goes back to the no child left behind perception that they adopted years ago," Collins said.
If passed, the bill will go into effect next school year.

The K-12 subcommittee will vote on the Tennessee Student Hunger Free Act in March.