This landed in my in-box today, and I had to kind of cringe to keep from laughing when I read it. I still don't understand why we're not just feeding kids for free in school--whatever system is currently in use where many people live is probably antiquated and based on a time when making a lunch for a kid was relatively inexpensive. Now, with rising food costs and shrinking wages, this issue becomes more and more difficult for people to solve.
When it comes to public schools providing meals for low-income children, congressional Republicans have built up a discouraging record in recent years. In 2014, for example, a GOP congressman from Georgia suggested struggling children should either pay more for school meals or tackle janitorial tasks in their schools in exchange for food.
Around the same time, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) delivered a speech suggesting kids who rely on school lunches aren’t cared for as much as kids who bring their own lunch to school. The far-right lawmaker, we later learned, was relying on an anecdote that turned out to be made-up.
That was the last Congress. In this Congress, Jared Bernstein and Ben Spielberg made the case in the Washington Post yesterday that Republican lawmakers are eyeing new restrictions on the federal program.
Under current law, changed by Democrats in 2010, schools don’t have to verify which individual students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. Rather, if a school serves a community in which 40% of the kids are eligible for meal assistance – called the “Identified Student Percentage” – the schools can make food available to all of its students. It streamlines the bureaucracy and verification process, cuts down on paperwork, and helps ensure children receive the benefits to which they’re entitled under the law.
If you fed kids as part of the school curriculum, and normalized the idea that school means education plus food, it would definitely increase costs for the school districts. That would have to be offset by funding from elsewhere, and, given the many wingnut state legislatures out there, you can count on expressions of massive butt hurt. But, wherever that funding comes from, it would provide several benefits that would have a huge impact on families.
One, it would ensure that kids on the threshold of receiving a free lunch wouldn't be left out and could count on getting food at school. Two, it would ensure that everyone in school had a chance to eat something and not go hungry, thereby making it hard to learn in the first place. Why not eliminate the stigma and just feed all the kids the same thing and make it free (and healthier to boot)? Is the country really that broke or do we just not want to make some hard choices? The schools are already in the business of giving kids free or reduced lunches. Why not get completely into that business, negotiate for better rates and lower costs, and make it part of what makes school important in a community?
There's a lot to be said for the stability that a good school can bring to a neighborhood. It can definitely drive property values up and it can increase participation for parents and students in what happens. Yeah, I get that there will always be apathy. It's not like you have to eat what's put in front of you--kids should be allowed to bring their own food or opt out.