in which i make a For The Children(tm) plea
John Hawkins writes about free school lunches:
First off, there is no need for a school lunch program in the United States of America. Nobody starves to death in this country, not even the homeless. So whether these kids get free food at school or not, they are going to be able to ultimately get enough eat one way or another.
.....Even if you don't want to get rid of the school lunch and breakfast program, we should at least make the kids work to earn the food. Let the older kids spend some time beating out erasers, sweeping the hallways, or doing something else to pay for their food. Even the little kids could at least -- I don't know -- make macaroni pictures dedicated to the US taxpayers who are paying for the free pizza they're getting at lunch. Let them learn that there is no "free lunch" or "free breakfast" for that matter and that you should have to work for everything you get. Even that would be preferable to putting these kids on the dole and teaching them that the world owes them free food...
I'm about to serve myself up to the wolves here.
Have you ever been poor? Near poor? Have you ever had to scrape around between the cushions of the couch hoping you could find enough change to buy a half gallon of milk? Have you ever had to cash in the bonds your kids got from relatives when they were born so you could go food shopping or get school supplies?
I have. And I know that free school lunches are a saving grace. Yes, I understand the lunch isn't really free, that someone's taxes were going towards my kids' sandwiches. What comes around goes around. Years later I am far from poor and I know that part of my taxes are going towards another kid's free lunch and I don't mind.
This is not a matter of uncaring parents or people not wanting to work for what they get. Some people really, honestly need that food for their kids. Sometimes the only thing in their refrigerator is what little they have to make a decent dinner and breakfast for their kids - a free lunch is a blessing. It's not about nutrition - it's about putting some food in the empty stomach of a poor child.
What got me more than John's ideas were some comments:
1. I went to a boarding school, and my parents had to pay for my lunches. Day pupils at the school had to buy their own lunches. Nobody got a state-funded lunch.
2. It makes parents responsible for their kids' nutrition, and that's exactly the way it should be.
3. It induces an element of competition where you compare lunch-boxes and food, and that's a good thing because it encourages kids to succeed economically.
Obviously if this person went to a boarding school, they don't know poor from piss poor. And "inducing an element of competition?" Are you kidding? What kind of encouragement does a kid get from "Oh, I see you have a peanut butter sandwich for the fifth day in a row. Can't you afford anything else?"
The families that qualify for free food at school probably get assistance already in the form of welfare, food stamps, etc. In other words, their food dilemma is already taken care of. If there was a reasonable argument that the meals the students are getting causes a sharp increase in academic performance I would consider the program valid. Here's my cold conservative solution.
1) Stop trading wic vouchers for cigarettes, beer and microwave food.
2) Go to bed before Leno ends so you can get up early and make breakfast and a healthy brown bag lunch. If you follow step 1 you can afford to do this.
3) Take the extra 30 minutes a day I saved you by not watching Leno and learn a little bit about general nutrition. Surprisingly enough, healthy food is much cheaper than most microwave meals/snacks.
4) Write thank-you cards to all of the taxpayers for the food we already provide you. Make a point to have child get an education so he will not be dependent on charity.
A common misconception about poor people is that there is only one class of poor. Welcome to the working poor class. People who are deemed to make too much money to be eligible for food stamps and welfar, but make too little money to have anything but the basic necessities in their fridge.
Not all poor people are neglectful parents. Not everyone who would apply for a free lunch program at school is jobless or homeless or drinking and smoking on a street corner while their kids are at school.
Well fed kids are better educated kids, on the premise that a hungry kid cannot think or concentrate. Feed the kids, feed the future. Sure, that's broad and simplistic, but it's coming from a person whose kids were not hungry during the day because they got a discounted lunch; it's coming from a person who did not choose to be poor and was greatly appreciative of the help she got while climbing out of poverty.
As is always the case when I am writing about something that has pissed me off to the point of turning my stomach, I probably haven't been very eloquent in making my point.
But I think you get it nonetheless.