Lunch shaming is the stigmatization of students that are unable to pay for their school meals. The phenomenon of lunch shaming is frequently highlighted in the media.
The purpose of this study was to perform a content analysis on news sources covering the topic of lunch shaming in order to see trends in the media.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
A content analysis of national, international, and local online, print, and broadcast news was conducted to examine news stories that covered lunch shaming across the US. News stories were retrieved from 5 news media databases using predetermined search terms. Two trained coders analyzed the news stories for common themes and classified each story by state and type of news source.
Frequencies were summarized for the content analysis and articles were coded for themes.
Of the 355 news stories analyzed, the majority came from local print newspapers (73.5%). The highest percentage of news stories covered incidences of lunch shaming in Pennsylvania (18.3%). Most stories mentioned state or national policies on lunch shaming (54.9%). For example, “New Mexico has passed a law said to be the first of its kind, banning lunch shaming.” Stories highlighted barriers (eg, poverty, language) that parents face while paying for school meals. Other themes included instances of individuals donating money to settle debt, specific shaming tactics used, and referring parents to Child Protective Services.
Lunch shaming remains a major problem and strategies need to be considered to remedy this phenomenon. Awareness of how the media is portraying the phenomenon of lunch shaming may provide insight into how school districts and foodservice directors can target their communication and education about this issue.
Appendix. Supplementary data
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