free lunch: the topic that would not die
Today, Vinny posts a whole slew of information for those lazy, rotten parents who would dare accept the offer of free lunch for their children. After listing the costs of various lunch items and the sundry things that could be given up by the parents, hew writes this:
I'll tell you one thing... The case of a parent not being able to afford lunch or breakfast for a kid is pretty damned weak. If it weren't so damned easy to get, you could bet that somehow parents would do what my parents did when we were piss poor and damn near kicked out of our apartment for having trouble paying the rent: Find a way.
Yes, they would find a way. Somehow, before handouts, we found a way to provide for ourselves. You know why we don't now? Not because we're lazy. I don't believe that. Not because we don't care, I do think we care. Nope, it's because we've made it too damned easy to not provide what's necessary and still have the void filled anyway.
If kids can survive in the summer, they can survive while school is going. It's time compassion stopped being equated with handouts. All the handouts do is create a permanent underclass of people dependent on the system.
Permanent? Not here. I used the free lunch "handout" for less than a school year. Once I got back on my feet again, I took my daughter's name out of the program.
I think Vinny, and several other people who are foaming at the mouth over this, missed my one main point yesterday, so I will say it again:
I did not call the school and tell them it was their job to feed my kid. I didn't demand a free lunch. It was offered to me, just like it was offered - with guidelines and forms to fill out - to every single family with a child in the school district. I took the offer because it was there and because the money saved by not buying lunch a few days a week meant I could buy extra school supplies needed for special projects or vitamins or something better for dinner than macaroni and cheese.
It was there. I took it. I didn't demand it, I didn't assume that the school district had this responsibility to feed my daughter. Had they not offered, I would have made her peanut butter and jelly every day. But it was there and I had no idea that it was stealing or theft or whatever you people are calling it by filling out the form given to me, signing it and saying thank you very much, I would like a discounted lunch for my child.
Repeat: I did not expect the school to feed my child. In fact, I did not know about the free lunch program until a kind friend pointed it out to me. I would have made do by scrounging together a lunch for my kid, but I thought the program was there because they wanted people who needed it to use it while they had to. I didn't ask. I was given.
Vinny's examples of what one parent could give up every month in order to make their child lunch instead of begging for scraps from those better off than them is almost laughable. He assumes an awful lot by speculating that the lazy, shiftless parents of kids on the free lunch program all order WWF pay-per-views and their kids are all wearing Nike sneakers. I shopped at garage sales for my kids' clothes, Vinny. Our video entertainment did not come from Blockbuster, but from the library. Where it was free. Where your taxes paid for my free video rentals. But, hey. Everyone gets it for free there, so I guess you don't mind if a few bad parents use the library system as long as you get to use it as well.
I pay taxes. I pay a lot of taxes. State, county, school, etc. Those free lunches came out of my money, too.
Do you know what else your taxes pay for, Vinny, John, etc.? They pay for the computers in the schools. They pay for the textbooks. They pay for the playground and gym equipment and the libraries and street signs and sidewalks. They pay for the volunteer fire departments.
Which one of those services would you like to not pay for? Surely your child doesn't use every textbook the school has, so why should you pay for something your kid isn't using? Would you like to pick and choose where your tax money goes?
Again, I don't condone any free lunch system that forces kids who can afford it to pay more for their lunch in order to offset the costs. But I do condone a program that let's a parent save a little money and a kid get a good lunch in the process. You would be surprised at how many poor people there are in your neighborhood. In fact, you might be surprised at what qualifies as poor these days.
I've probably said all this before, but it bears repeating. I am so disheartened at the slurs and insults that have been hurled at those people who accept free lunch for their kids. I was not a bad parent. I was not lazy. I was not neglectful or abusive or spending my money on beer, liquor or lottery tickets.
You never know where circumstances, fate and and a myriad of other forces may lead you one day. Just know that if you ever end up in the situation I was in, I would be compassionate and empathetic. I would not stand here and insult you and assume the worst.
I don't believe that schools are responsible for raising kids. I think compassionism should only go so far. I think that, utlimately, parents should be held accountable and responsible for every aspect of their child's life and no one else should be blamed when their kid gets fat or lazy or flunks out of every subject or goes on a killing spree. I don't have some socialist view of the world.
I just know that help was offered to me once and I took it because I needed it desperately, not because it was there. I took exactly what I needed and then took no more.
And now I am just sick over the assumptions people make about me (yes, me - when you write those words about people who use the free lunch program you are writing about me just a few short years ago) because I took the help that was offered and didn't send a thank you card to every taxpayer in my town.
I am really, really disheartened at the rabid, nasty comments being thrown around about this. Walk a mile. And don't tell me about what your parents did. Walk a mile, now. In these times, with these prices and this cost of living. I'll lend you my shoes.
UPDATE: There are some people who think that the system is abused because no one checks on whether the people who are getting free or reduced lunches really "deserve" them.
For the record, I had to fill out about five forms and hand in photocopies of W2 forms and tax returns and give two references and have the damn thing notarized before they would accept my entry into the program.
UPDATE 2: Vinny has now fisked me.