A couple of weeks ago, dozens of students at a Utah elementary school sat down to eat school lunch, only to have their lunches confiscated and thrown away because their parents were behind on their lunch accounts.
I was surprised to learn in the resultant internet firestorm that the Utah incident is far from isolated. Denying food to kids whose families are behind on their lunch bills is apparently a thing. A whole variety of schools either deny kids lunch outright or provide them with a stop-gap meal, such as a plain cheese sandwich, that’s easily identifiable by peers as meant for kids who can’t afford lunch.
I had no idea. This is so crazy to me for a whole slew of reasons.
From a purely pragmatic standpoint, much has been made about the state of American public schools. Pretty much everyone agrees that there’s an achievement gap, both between the US and the rest of the world and among US students themselves. Pretty much no one thinks that’s a good thing. Pretty much everyone also agrees that it’s really hard to be at your best when you’re hungry, stressed out, and upset. So surely exposing kids to the hunger and humiliation that goes along with forcing them to eat different food than their peers or denying them food entirely is exactly the kind of thing what we *don’t* want to do? Surely this type of policy is bound to hamper student achievement?
From a more human standpoint, it just doesn’t seem right to deny children food because their parents are behind on the bill. Maybe the parents haven’t been notified that their kids’ lunch bill is due. Maybe the family can’t afford to pay the bill. Or maybe the parents are the kind of jerks who figure that they don’t *have* to pay the bill because it’s someone else’s responsibility to feed their kid. Either way, that’s not the kid’s fault.
Junior shouldn’t have to go hungry or eat the sub-standard cheese sandwich of shame because he lives in a home filled with chaos, food insecurity, and/or entitled jerks. Give the kid the nutrition he needs and take the financial issues up with parents.
Much outrage has ensued as a result of the Utah case and, as a result, the district has put “clear and concise procedures” into place to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
The procedures are basically:
1. Give kids lunch if they want lunch no matter what, because, seriously, it’s a hungry kid. Don’t be an asshole.
2. Take up any bill related issues with the parents.
Seems pretty solid.