Want to know how you can create hell on earth? Decide that you don’t care whether children eat. And then, create more hell by shaping policies that determine what kids are worthy of school meals.
Schools and school systems across the United States regularly deny meals to children because the child/parent “owes money”. When my daughter was in elementary school I paid for her school lunch through the school’s online payment system. I set up a warning level so that I would get an alert emailed to me when the account reached a certain level. Whenever I got the low-balance alert, I would panic (yeah – I set myself up for this madness!) and rush to replenish the account. My fear was always that I would mess this thing up – miss the alert, some technological snafu or some other thing would happen and that would set off the “lunch lady” caricature I had in my head.
It never happened and my child was not denied a meal. But other people’s children are being denied school meals across the country. Every day. (Some of our schools are so overcrowded that kids don’t even get a lunch period. I’ve had two children affected by this – and they were dependent upon “understanding” teachers who would allow them to eat in class because they didn’t even have a lunch period. But that’s a discussion for another day.)
But on this — what is to be gained by refusing a child a meal?
What adult thinks it is good public policy to deny a child lunch – to humiliate and publicly shame them – because their parent or guardian has not “paid” their bill?
Who physically takes food away from a child and throws it away as the child watches?
What human being would agree to follow a policy that requires adults to throw away a meal rather give it to a child whose parent has an unpaid bill? (I mean, fight the power, people!!!)
I believe that the United States has the resources to offer free school meals to all public school students regardless of income – but we don’t have the will. What we spend on the administration of the meals program and the effort to deny a seat at the table for the “unworthy of a meal” kids is probably a sin. I don’t know – but I surmise that’s where the waste is – bureaucracy.
It’s never a waste of resources to FEED A CHILD!
But, why do kids need to eat anyway? And most importantly, why do poor kids need to eat? And what does all of this matter to me? I ate today.
It matters because, by our wrongheadedness and thoughtlessness, by our misunderstanding of what we owe our children, by our lumping children into categories of “worthy and unworthy” of our support and investment — we are in effect supporting policies that are creating hell on earth for our children and for ourselves.
What in the world do you think is going on in the hearts and minds and spirits of the children who watched adults throw away the food that they were denied? What about the children who got to eat and watched their peers denied a meal for something they had no control over? Do you honestly think no damage was done to any of these children, nothing to see here, move it along?
Do you have any idea of how that experience — and all of the other ridiculous and mean-spirited ways we publicly shame and call out children around their family’s income — communicates a message about what we value?
Here’s the link to the story about how nuts adults can be – read it and weep. And then decide to stop creating hell on earth for kids.