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Waste and hypocrisy in the school lunch program

March 15, 2013
Jane Jech - Marshalltown, Iowa , Traer Star-Clipper

Dear Editor,

No one questions the fact that students have difficulty learning when they're hungry. The question is, WHO should be feeding them and HOW?

The National School Lunch Act became law in 1946. Since that time, we have added breakfast, school-day snacks, after-school snacks, take-home meals, and summertime meals.

Picture an elementary classroom with a teacher, students ranging from miniature to others triple their size. There may be special need students with paras. Breakfast is provided for everyone, including the adults. Anyone can choose not to eat, but if they want anything, they are expected to take at least three of the items provided. They cannot share or keep anything for later. All of the food items are prepackaged, but as is often the case, they have to be thrown away, opened or not (including milk, juice, cereal boxes, single packaged cheese sticks, muffins, etc.), if they are not consumed in the 10-15 minutes allowed. Same thing happens later in the day. You should see the garbage bins at lunch! The huge waste is obvious to everyone, but accepted, because it's paid for with tax dollars they never see.

The hypocrisy of the system is just as bad. The stated intent is to ensure all children receive adequate, nutritious food. But if a child isn't hungry enough to want the food provided, do they really need it? Do we force them to take it and throw it away ten minutes later to make ourselves feel compassionate? What about the fast growing student who would love to have the unused food on the plate next to him but has to watch it be thrown away because sharing is banned? What are we teaching them? How about the teacher who wishes she could send unused, packaged food home with a student but can't?

Consider the negative impact on families. Parents take less and less responsibility for their children. Students are conditioned to think government provided food is the norm and to be expected. Parents, who spend family grocery money on drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, etc., feel no shame because they know government will feed their children. A child coming to school hungry often has more to do with a parent's "interest-level" than it does with their "income-level."

When you enter many of our national parks, there is a sign that says, "Please, do NOT feed the animals." Is it because they don't care about the animals? Precisely the opposite! They do not want the animals to become dependent on tourists for food and unable to feed themselves. The effect on people is the same.

It's time for common sense solutions that end dependency on government, help the truly needy, and strengthen families, not weaken them.

Jane Jech

Marshalltown, Iowa

 
 

 

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