Waste and hypocrisy in school food programs

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

Since the National School Lunch Act became law in 1946, breakfast, classroom snacks, after-school snacks, summertime meals and more have been added as entitlements for many.

Picture a typical elementary classroom with a teacher, students ranging from very small to others triple their size, and a special need student with their para. Breakfast is provided for everyone, including the adults. If they take anything they have to take at least three of the items provided. Nothing can be shared or saved. All food (including milk, juice, cereal boxes, cheese sticks, muffins, etc.) are prepackaged and sealed but they have to be thrown away if they are not consumed in the 10-15 minutes allowed, even if they haven’t been opened! At lunch, the garbage bins are full of untouched food! The waste is obvious, but ignored.

Consider the hypocrisy of this system. 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 should we force them to take it and throw it away ten minutes later to make ourselves feel compassionate? What about the larger student who would love to have the untouched food on the plate next to him but has to watch it be thrown away because sharing is banned? What are we teaching them?

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. Parents, who spend family grocery money on drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, etc., feel no shame because they know the government will feed their children. A child coming to school hungry may have 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, provide help for the truly needy, and strengthen families, not weaken them.