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No Free Lunch
September 6, 2013 12:31 PM   Subscribe

A New Jersey school district chooses to withhold lunch from kids whose parents forgot to refill their lunch accounts. There has been a great deal of controversy regarding the school districts decision to withhold food from children who don't have money on their school account. However, it should be noted that the article mentions: "Part of the reason we're doing this is to help hold parents accountable." Dr. Ronald Taylor, the Superintendent, says that the district will warn parents when their account is down to five dollars, which is about three days before it's empty.
posted by Shouraku (221 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Part of the reason we're doing this is to help hold parents accountable."

Part of the reason you're starving children? What's the other part?

These people need to examine their lives.
posted by selfnoise at 12:34 PM on September 6, 2013 [119 favorites]


Yes, it is always a good way to hold people accountable by withholding food from their children. Nothing bad could ever come of that.
posted by nushustu at 12:35 PM on September 6, 2013 [31 favorites]


UGH x UGH x UGH
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:36 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there no way to hold parents accountable without hurting children who are innocent? School is to serve children, and it's a shame that many parents don't do their part, but the mission of the school is not to hold parents to account.
posted by klangklangston at 12:36 PM on September 6, 2013 [16 favorites]


"Since you've lapsed in your payments for your auto insurance, we're going to drive over your dog."
posted by nushustu at 12:36 PM on September 6, 2013 [40 favorites]


Considering the fight over food stamps in Congress, starving the kids seems like a good lesson for what they can count on from society in the future.
posted by incessant at 12:36 PM on September 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


Run it like a business.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:37 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


"...the district says that if a student goes through the lunch line and doesn't have enough money to pay for it, the lunch staff is instructed to throw the meal away."

A confused Charles Dickens rises from his grave to protest this abuse of suspension of disbelief.
posted by griphus at 12:38 PM on September 6, 2013 [141 favorites]


What about instead of third period French, we just have the kids sew clothes for The Gap?
posted by incessant at 12:39 PM on September 6, 2013 [37 favorites]


What is it about people named Ronald and screwing over the poor?
posted by Green Winnebago at 12:40 PM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


WHAT
THE
FUCK
WILLINGBORO SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT DR. RONALD TAYLOR
posted by Aizkolari at 12:40 PM on September 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Jesus Christ. Is there a Fuck You Willingboro account we can PayPal a few bucks to so we can buy some of those kids a square slice of shitty pizza and a carton of milk?
posted by bondcliff at 12:41 PM on September 6, 2013 [33 favorites]


All kidding aside, klangklangston is correct. I used to be an elementary teacher. If this happened in my school, guess what would happen? I would end up having to take what meager money I made and pay for a bunch of school lunches, because if the kids don't eat, they certainly aren't going to learn. And then, after the umpteenth time that I had to tell my own children that, no, we can't go out for ice cream tonight (because I couldn't afford it,) I'd see red. And then next time there was a staff meeting, I'd let the principal/superintendent/any other administrator in the room know that I was kind of tired of having to be a personal fucking food bank just to be able to do my job so that they could straddle their fucking high horse and look down their noses at people whom they deemed irresponsible and to whom they should Teach A Lesson. As if they had taught a lesson in the last 20 years they had been involved in education.

And then I'd get fired.
posted by nushustu at 12:41 PM on September 6, 2013 [204 favorites]


Jesus H. When my kid's lunch account runs dry (it happens because I am a flake), they give her the meal and send email, handwritten notes, and once (I told you I was a flake) I got a phone call asking for a credit card number RIGHT NOW. But they've never sent her back to her class hungry.

What will actually happen from this is that, once again, teachers will pay out of their own pockets to feed hungry students with poor or flakey parents.
posted by KathrynT at 12:42 PM on September 6, 2013 [20 favorites]


He's a doctor. Doctor dickhole. He's a modern Stone Age asshole.
posted by stltony at 12:44 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Of course, to "hold kids accountable" they are, in addition to not feeding them (and impacting their ability to actually participate), they are also publicly shaming them.

Great work, school. I'm sure that will help enormously.
posted by Archelaus at 12:44 PM on September 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


but the mission of the school is not to hold parents to account.

At the risk of sounding like some sort of right-wing crazy person, someone has to hold parents to account for very, very basic things like either paying for lunch or applying for the free lunch program.

I'm sensitive to how hard it is to be poor, but this is really not beyond any parent's capabilities.
posted by GuyZero at 12:45 PM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Thorzdad: "Run it like a business"

In case this was a subtle swipe at charter schools, I'd like to point out I've seen countless charters where 99-100% of kids are on free lunch that manage to serve lunch (and oftentimes breakfast) to every kid in the school every day without ever charging them anything. The actual case we're actually talking about here is a traditional public school district with an elected superintendent.

So, yeah, this superintendent is a horrid excuse for an educator and a human being and should be run out of town on a rail. But let's blame him for what he actually does instead of what we think he thinks.
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:45 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


My daughter forgot her water bottle in the classroom on her first day of Kindergarten and they gave her a carton of milk to drink at lunchtime. She was excited; my wife and I traded glances, both expecting to that we would receive a bill for like twelve dollars.

Either Sodexho is slow, or the lunch ladies were just being Good People, because it's been a week and no bill has been forthcoming.

But, see I would have been willing to pay it, if my daughter got fed, whereas this... This just beggars the imagination. Who ordered this? And who the hell carried it out?!
posted by wenestvedt at 12:45 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


""...the district says that if a student goes through the lunch line and doesn't have enough money to pay for it, the lunch staff is instructed to throw the meal away.""

Hey NJ photo journos — you want an easy Hines story? Go take pictures of the kids who got denied. "This is Steven. His mom works two jobs and fell behind on loading his card. He went hungry today after the school intentionally wasted food rather than giving it to him."

Then roll by on lollerskates as the board shitcans Taylor.
posted by klangklangston at 12:45 PM on September 6, 2013 [46 favorites]


First, I think the Superintendent is just following a policy set by the local Board of Ed.

What they should do is raise the taxes by the amount of the cost of lunches for a year for every student and then give them a "free" lunch. That will shift the burden to the homeowner or landlord via property taxes. I know in NY, running the food program at a deficit is a Bozo no-no.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:46 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


...someone has to hold parents to account for very, very basic things like either paying for lunch or applying for the free lunch program.

Absolutely!

Which is why this situation where the kids are being hold accountable for the actions of their parents comes off as sadistic at best.
posted by griphus at 12:46 PM on September 6, 2013 [47 favorites]


I'm sensitive to how hard it is to be poor, but this is really not beyond any parent's capabilities.

NOPE. Not beating children is beyond some parents' capabilities. So let's just not do this, shall we?
posted by nushustu at 12:47 PM on September 6, 2013 [36 favorites]


Kids are freeloaders by nature. You've got to nip it in the bud.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:48 PM on September 6, 2013 [26 favorites]


wenestvedt: "My daughter forgot her water bottle in the classroom on her first day of Kindergarten and they gave her a carton of milk to drink at lunchtime. She was excited; my wife and I traded glances, both expecting to that we would receive a bill for like twelve dollars.?!"

The milk (and hot lunch) at most schools nationwide is subsidized. If you get a bill for a pint of milk, it will be for around a half a buck.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:48 PM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


nushustu, if you bought my kid lunch one day because I spaced it, I would send you twenty bucks and a huge box of classroom supplies and write a letter of commendation to the principal and probably to the local paper.

So if you have ever done that for someone else, THANK YOU from the flakes of the world, especially your corner of it. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:48 PM on September 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


I rarely deign to enter the airless and windowless tomb that is the freshman cafeteria in the HS where I teach, but when I do and if I see one of my own students without a lunch I offer to buy 'em something. This happens once or twice a month, tops. There is no way I'd be willing to do that even once for 30-35 kids. I imagine their next board of ed meeting will be well-attended.

If I had an entire class of children who hadn't eaten because of some asinine idea by the local tea-partyin' supernintendo, I'd be talking to my head building rep (in this case me, ha) about the consequences, etc.
posted by vkxmai at 12:48 PM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


The milk (and hot lunch) at most schools nationwide is subsidized. If you get a bill for a pint of milk, it will be for around a half a buck.

Not after Sodexo gets done with it....
posted by wenestvedt at 12:49 PM on September 6, 2013


Kids are freeloaders by nature. You've got to nip it in the bud.

Vasectomies for EVERYONE!
posted by klanawa at 12:49 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


NOPE. Not beating children is beyond some parents' capabilities. So let's just not do this, shall we?


Wait, which one of us has the low opinion of hypothetical parents here? I'm honestly confused.
posted by GuyZero at 12:49 PM on September 6, 2013


GuyZero has a decent point. While the kids should not be shamed, letting some parents get away with not paying is not the answer.

In the old days, kids had to pay tuition to go to their one-room schoolhouse. Kids who couldn't afford it would do things like sweep the room or carry coal to the scuttle to pay their share.
posted by Melismata at 12:50 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Which is why this situation where the kids are being hold accountable for the actions of their parents comes off as sadistic at best.

Sure. It's beyond petty to throw out a lunch instead of just giving it to a kid. Just feed the damn kid.

But... what should Me. Superintendent do?
posted by GuyZero at 12:50 PM on September 6, 2013


In a letter sent home to parents, the district says that if a student goes through the lunch line and doesn't have enough money to pay for it, the lunch staff is instructed to throw the meal away.

I'm sympathetic to the difficulty of the problem they're trying to address, but this is galactically stupid. Klang is right: This isn't necessarily the school's job. It's the school's problem, sure, but—and somebody familiar with the New Jersey school system may correct me, here—this smells like administrative vigilantism. "It would take too long, and be too much hassle to pursue this through proper channels. Let's keep this in the family."

This policy is perfectly legal. It's up to the district's discretion.

As far as I can tell, the citation for this statement of law is WTFX. It's not presented as a quote from the superintendent. I'm curious what the source is, or if the reporter is just parroting what "people" told him. Because as a lawyer who admittedly isn't overly familiar with school law in my own jurisdictions...I dunno, I'm not automatically inclined to assume the answer is yes. Public schools aren't private businesses. Once families have opted-in to a public-school lunch program like this, does the school really have this kind of discretion?
posted by cribcage at 12:51 PM on September 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


I wonder if Boston's approach of providing free school lunches for all will turn out to be more cost effective in the end. MA is doing some things right.
posted by idb at 12:51 PM on September 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


The problem is that you are shaming those children and not just sending them back hungry to class. Being hungry, well you can hide that as a child but being the kid that is to poor to eat, yeah, that is shame that does not go away.

It is so appalling that they would rather throw the food away then feed the kid, that is another weight of shame to add to the pile. Because when you throw away food instead of giving it to someone you have placed that person below carrion feeders. You are saying that you make garbage and you are not worthy of garbage.
posted by jadepearl at 12:51 PM on September 6, 2013 [70 favorites]


letting some parents get away with not paying is not the answer.

The first time, it probably IS the answer. If it becomes a chronic problem, ask the parents to apply for the voucher program.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:51 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, more punishing poor people for being poor then?
posted by Old'n'Busted at 12:52 PM on September 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


I have trouble seeing the cashiers actually enacting this policy.
posted by jeather at 12:52 PM on September 6, 2013


I rarely deign to enter the airless and windowless tomb that is the freshman cafeteria in the HS where I teach, but when I do and if I see one of my own students without a lunch I offer to buy 'em something.

Aha, but you are just teaching children that if they wait around long enough, someone will give them a handout, and what kind of world will we be living in then, huh? You're encouraging dependency and also interfering with the parent-child bond!

/hamburger

/no you can't have any hamburger if you forgot your lunch money
posted by rtha at 12:52 PM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm sensitive to how hard it is to be poor, but this is really not beyond any parent's capabilities.

So the kids have to suffer? Fuck this bootstrap right-wing bullshit.

How do these people look themselves in the mirror after ordering children to be denied food and even have food thrown out rather than serve a hungry kid?

Apropos of Something

It's this idea that government should be run like a business where the important thing is profit and saving a dollar rather than serving the public. It's the poisonous cult of "personal responsibility" that leads to these kind of perversions. The poor are stupid and lazy and need the lash to be made to fall in line.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:53 PM on September 6, 2013 [25 favorites]


Great. So is the school going to provide the cafeteria with sadism training so they can look a child in the eye and say "sorry, kid, because of circumstances completely beyond your control, you don't get to eat today..."

This only has to happen once, to one kid, before others just start avoiding the lunch line out of fear that it would happen to them next.
posted by inertia at 12:54 PM on September 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Hold on. The article says "The new lunch program states that if kids, not on the Free and Reduced Lunch program, don't have money to pay for their school lunch, they will go hungry for the day."

So in other words, the poor kids aren't subject to this rule - they get their lunch. The kids whose parents (presumably) have enough to pay for their kids' lunches, but let the account run empty (even after a heads-up) don't get lunch.

I'm as willing as anyone to get angry about people treating kids and their education as a profit-making exercise, but this kind of looks like manufactured outrage to a large extent.
posted by pipeski at 12:55 PM on September 6, 2013 [18 favorites]


The more I think about it, the more I wonder if the Super has just read too much Dickens lately.
posted by Archelaus at 12:55 PM on September 6, 2013


I feel old saying this, but:

What in the blazing f**k happened to this country?

Children should not be pawns in your weird bootstrap masturbation fantasy.
posted by kaiseki at 12:55 PM on September 6, 2013 [21 favorites]


This only has to happen once, to one kid, before others just start avoiding the lunch line out of fear that it would happen to them next.

And then the following year the Superintendent will get a $25K bonus for reducing the lunch expense by 10%.

Brilliant!
posted by COD at 12:55 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


But... what should Me. Superintendent do?

Well, when I was in school -- early- to late-90s in Brooklyn -- all the schools I went to had a really high number of kids who were on reduced/free lunch. The administration was fucking adamant about getting those forms filled out because if they had less kids on free/reduced lunch, that meant their allowance for free/reduced lunch dropped.

In fact, I remember teachers telling kids that even if they know that they're not going to be eating school lunch but think that they would be applicable for free/reduced, to have the form filled out. Because next year, some poor kid whose parents aren't making them lunch will need the paltry sum allotted last year.
posted by griphus at 12:56 PM on September 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Absolutely Fucking Reprehensible.
posted by KillaSeal at 12:57 PM on September 6, 2013


Had to click on the article, just to be sure it wasn't my NJ town that was doing this.

It wasn't, thank God.
posted by Rory Marinich at 12:58 PM on September 6, 2013


Melismata: "While the kids should not be shamed, letting some parents get away with not paying is not the answer."

I don't know, why not? The Willingboro School District isn't in prison. It doesn't have to kick someone's ass on the first day just to prove it's hard.
posted by invitapriore at 1:00 PM on September 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


I just got so angry I had to stop working and just stare into space for a while being angry and then my eyes got dry because I wasn't blinking just being angry.

I remember when I was in fourth grade this kid behind me in line ripped my lunch ticket and I thought I wouldn't be able to get lunch that day and I cried, but the adult was like OF COURSE YOU'RE GOING TO GET LUNCH BABY. And I was reassured that school was a safe place and I could trust the adults around me to take care of me.

Or instead we could have kids trained to distrust social institutions, that always ends well for values of well that = massive corruption and societal collapse.
posted by prefpara at 1:00 PM on September 6, 2013 [111 favorites]


And then the following year the Superintendent will get a $25K bonus for reducing the lunch expense by 10%.

While I can not be 100% certain, I am fairly sure this is not his desire. Do school board employees even get bonuses? What he wants is to get more people signing up for the free lunch program.

My kids' school district had a robo-dialer that called every single family (several times) before the beginning of the school year telling people to sign up for the free lunch program. That seems like a better approach. of course, they got a lot of complains about too many phone calls, but WTF people, it's like a 10 second call if you don't need to sign up.

Like all administrators I suspect this guy has only one desire in life - to make sure he has all his paperwork filled out. And if parents aren't playing ball, well, clearly he doesn't really mind being an asshole. Which is crazy.
posted by GuyZero at 1:00 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. God Bless America.
posted by marienbad at 1:00 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


But... what should Me. Superintendent do?

Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?
posted by Sangermaine at 1:02 PM on September 6, 2013 [23 favorites]


This is one Type I diabetic away from a costly lawsuit because of this supreme prick superintendent. This dick should have to be the one to throw a kid's lunch away, and spend the day listening to the kid whine about being hungry for the rest of the day. What a piece of shit.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:03 PM on September 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


I have trouble seeing the cashiers actually enacting this policy.

They're not going to cross Red.
posted by yoink at 1:04 PM on September 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


OK, I know this is ridiculous and utopian and all, but why do we treat school lunch like some discrete entity in the first place? Lunch is as much a part of the school infrastructure as classrooms and lockers and restrooms and text books.

The federal free lunch for all program being tested out in Boston is a good idea, but I don't think it goes far enough as it's only available to schools with a certain percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunch. Why can't we just provide lunch to all students, regardless of ability to pay, with tax dollars, which are already putatively based on ability to pay? Everyone would get fed, kids wouldn't be shamed in lunchrooms, and you'd save a lot of money eliminating all the accounting, cashiering, income verification, and bill collecting parts of lunch programs.

I know that school funding doesn't work that way. I know teachers and parents are bearing a lot of the costs of schooling that really should be provided by the schools already, so yeah, I know this isn't going to happen. But it should.
posted by ernielundquist at 1:05 PM on September 6, 2013 [37 favorites]


All kidding aside, klangklangston is correct...And then I'd get fired.

Saddest and angriest thanks I've ever given to a comment.
posted by rbellon at 1:06 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


OK, I know this is ridiculous and utopian and all, but why do we treat school lunch like some discrete entity in the first place?

Because, socialism.
posted by COD at 1:07 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


One more thing: If I was in the teacher's union, I'd be all over this shit, having a union fundraiser to pay for these kids' lunches for the school year. That'd be a huge fucking arrow in the quiver for the "We care more about students than you do" contract negotiations.

"Remember how the administration said your kids should go hungry and would rather waste food than give it to them? Remember who fed them? Yeah, fuck your increased copays or decreased pensions or whatever the fuck."
posted by klangklangston at 1:07 PM on September 6, 2013 [30 favorites]


Accountability is one of the key concepts of neoliberal ideology; it encapsulates neatly the propagandistic idea, not that everything has a cost, but that everything necessary or worth having must be paid for, and is deployed most energetically when the people being "held accountable" are in the process of being separated from their right to something they need to live. Holding people accountable is important, because checks are needed on agency in order for people to get along, but it's most often wielded as a bludgeoning weapon of social control in our contemporary socio-political moment. We never hear about holding the powerful accountable, but those decadent poor and the naive middle-class, they are obliged to account for themselves.
posted by clockzero at 1:08 PM on September 6, 2013 [22 favorites]


Meh. I don't know. All this molly-coddling is weakening the moral fiber of the country. Gingrich had it right, when he suggested that we were too hasty in abolishing child-labor.

Gingrich calls child labor laws ‘truly stupid’

"At a Monday afternoon speech in New Hampshire where he unveiled his plan for revamping entitlement programs, Gingrich reiterated his ideas about child labor laws, saying that kid janitors “would be dramatically less expensive than unionized janitors.”"

Of course, that applies not to all children - don't be silly. It only applies to the poor children:

"Speaking at the John F. Kennedy school, Gingrich said that children in the poorest neighborhoods are “trapped in child laws” that prevent them from earning money."

And as long as we are going back to biblical values, remember, if you spare the rod you spoil the child, and even if the bible doesn't say that exactly, it's close enough, so why not bring back corporal punishment.

And while we're at it, cut out the middleman and go directly to War Against Poor. So, what really should happen is that at the beginning of the year, every child brings with him a certified statement of all assets in his family. Any child that is found to be below a specified level, will be subject to a beating every morning, no lunch, and then sent to work at the school sweeping floors, while their betters are getting an education. That will teach them the value of money and hard work.

You only think I'm kidding - as the bagger-laden GOP train stops at stations further and further to the right, they'll pick up on these ideas soon enough.
posted by VikingSword at 1:09 PM on September 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Everyone would get fed, kids wouldn't be shamed in lunchrooms, and you'd save a lot of money eliminating all the accounting, cashiering, income verification, and bill collecting parts of lunch programs.

It's the same as medical insurance - all that stuff keeps a lot of people employed. Why do you hate jobs?
posted by GuyZero at 1:11 PM on September 6, 2013


So in other words, the poor kids aren't subject to this rule - they get their lunch. The kids whose parents (presumably) have enough to pay for their kids' lunches, but let the account run empty (even after a heads-up) don't get lunch.

I'm as willing as anyone to get angry about people treating kids and their education as a profit-making exercise, but this kind of looks like manufactured outrage to a large extent.


Do children who have parents who just forgot to put more money into their account not deserve to eat?

There's also the children who aren't poor enough to qualify for free lunch, but who might have parents who just don't have the money this week, or had some unexpected bills come up, or whatever. Who cares?

My parents weren't poor enough to qualify for the free lunch program. Or honestly, they might have at some points during my childhood, but they probably never got their shit together enough to apply for it, or were much too ashamed to do so. Sometimes they sent me to school with change to pay for lunch. Sometimes they forgot to give me money. Sometimes, I forgot it.

I don't care if a kid parents' are the Monopoly guy who light cigars with $100 bills, their children don't deserve to be shamed and go hungry for their actions.
posted by inertia at 1:11 PM on September 6, 2013 [35 favorites]


The kids whose parents (presumably) have enough to pay for their kids' lunches, but let the account run empty (even after a heads-up) don't get lunch.

But they still don't get lunch.
posted by JHarris at 1:16 PM on September 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


My family is pretty well off, but a famous story from our childhood is the time my brother dropped a dime or something and didn't have all his money for lunch, and the lunchlady took the lunch out of his hands and threw it away in front of him. My mom is still angry at that lunchlady, even though we had plenty of money for food for our whole lives and my brother grew up perfectly fine despite not having lunch that one time in the early 90s.

It's just doing that to a kid. And that was a one off thing, not a school policy.

Plus like inertia said plenty of kids are poor but don't qualify for the free/reduced lunch, or their parents forgot to fill the account or whatever.
posted by sweetkid at 1:19 PM on September 6, 2013 [22 favorites]


So I'm going to fess up. I am totally someone who, when lunch was on a card that I filled, instead of just cash I handed over to the kid, has forgotten to refill the card. Because when you get the card, they don't actually tell you how much lunch is for the year. You just have to ballpark how much you THINK lunch will be.

And so I can tell you that, like others above, what happens is they send you letters, and then you try to remember the password, and have trouble with the interface, and finally fix it after fucking around with it for a week or so. You don't necessarily feel a sense of urgency. You have the money.

What would I have done if my kid came home hungry because I'd forgotten about it? Felt really, really bad, and made sure to throw ridicuous amounts of money into the lunch card just to make sure.

That said, throwing the food away visibly in front of the kid is really fucked up, and as I recall, is one of the symptoms of abuse.
posted by corb at 1:21 PM on September 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


OK, so admittedly I already wasn't having the greatest day ever, but this actually made me break down and shed tears. Through absolutely NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN these kids will be punished for something they very likely have zero control over.

I understand there are real world problems of financing and resources, but here (in it's entirety) is the list of reasons that a kid should not be given his or her lunch:

0.

This is just wrong, and I dearly hope that at least one cafeteria staff person at each of the affected schools thinks, "Hey admins, get bent." and goes ahead and feeds those kids anyway.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 1:21 PM on September 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


Hold on. The article says "The new lunch program states that if kids, not on the Free and Reduced Lunch program, don't have money to pay for their school lunch, they will go hungry for the day."

So in other words, the poor kids aren't subject to this rule - they get their lunch. The kids whose parents (presumably) have enough to pay for their kids' lunches, but let the account run empty (even after a heads-up) don't get lunch.

I'm as willing as anyone to get angry about people treating kids and their education as a profit-making exercise, but this kind of looks like manufactured outrage to a large extent.


At my school, it was this simple: no money in your lunch account? You now have a negative balance, which your parents are still responsible to pay.

EASY AS MOTHERFUCKING PIE. No one starves, school gets their money.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:22 PM on September 6, 2013 [77 favorites]


this isn't rocket science - you give the kid lunch and keep trying to contact the deadbeat parents - and perhaps ask them if they need to apply for the free lunch program - and after a certain amount of time, if they're not responsive, you call child protective services and they can ask them why they're not acting responsible towards their kids

you can't put this on the kids, and at 50K a year, it's not good to put it on the schools, either - that's one teacher's salary plus more

put the responsibility on the parents where it belongs
posted by pyramid termite at 1:22 PM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


OK, I know this is ridiculous and utopian and all, but why do we treat school lunch like some discrete entity in the first place?

Because, socialism.


This issue is an interesting example of how wrong it is to think of countries as simply sitting on some kind of "more socialist--more capitalist" continuum, though. Having grown up and having lived in countries that are usually seen as more "socialist" than the US (countries that have national health systems and so forth) I'm always a little surprised by the heavily subsidized school lunch thing here. It is such a "socialist" policy in a country that sees itself as so much on the individualist/capitalist/bootstrapping edge of the policy spectrum. The immediately relevant comparison is Canada, where there is, typically, no school lunch program whatsoever. Kids just bring a lunchbox with them from home (which is what I also grew up doing: well, a brown paper bag). Even with this latest little "no pay/no tray" twist, the program would represent a significant leftward move if implemented in Canada.
posted by yoink at 1:24 PM on September 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Given the number of organizations that want to auto debit my bank account every month when some bill is due I'm surprised the school doesn't just go to that. Given us your bank account or credit card number or little Johnny doesn't get to eat lunch at school.
posted by COD at 1:25 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, FWIW, the school lunch program is actually run by the Dept of Agriculture, not the Dept of Education as I said before.
posted by GuyZero at 1:25 PM on September 6, 2013


I think accountability is great! But what are these kids being held accountable for? It only works if you're holding people accountable for things they have actual control over.
posted by jeather at 1:26 PM on September 6, 2013 [16 favorites]


The district wouldn't have done this unless there were quite a few parents who both weren't providing the money for food, and also weren't filling out the paperwork for free lunch benefits. How do you get them to be a bit more responsible? Calling CPS seems kind of excessive.
posted by miyabo at 1:26 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


yoink, do a lot of kids in Canada just go hungry, then? School lunch (and sometimes breakfast) programs here started as a response to widespread poverty and hunger, and have hung on as an agricultural subsidy. What does Canada do for hungry kids?
posted by emjaybee at 1:26 PM on September 6, 2013


The district wouldn't have done this unless there were quite a few parents who both weren't providing the money for food, and also weren't filling out the paperwork for free lunch benefits. How do you get them to be a bit more responsible? Calling CPS seems kind of excessive.

As opposed to humiliating a child and making her go hungry?
posted by emjaybee at 1:27 PM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


griphus: "But... what should Me. Superintendent do?

Well, when I was in school -- early- to late-90s in Brooklyn -- all the schools I went to had a really high number of kids who were on reduced/free lunch. The administration was fucking adamant about getting those forms filled out because if they had less kids on free/reduced lunch, that meant their allowance for free/reduced lunch dropped.

In fact, I remember teachers telling kids that even if they know that they're not going to be eating school lunch but think that they would be applicable for free/reduced, to have the form filled out. Because next year, some poor kid whose parents aren't making them lunch will need the paltry sum allotted last year
"

When I went in the late 90's in Minnesota, a bunch of the funding assistance from the state for other programs was tied to how many kids were on free/reduced lunch (or so I have been told). This funding was so important that not only were we reminded the first few weeks of school to apply even if we didn't think we need it, but after I graduated the district was sued by the state for falsifying records/fraud for several years to have more on the books than there actually were. The state won, and the district had to pay the money back, which totally screwed the students over for a long time.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 1:27 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Given us your bank account or credit card number or little Johnny doesn't get to eat lunch at school

Ok, but then that's still a kid going hungry at school.
posted by sweetkid at 1:28 PM on September 6, 2013


What does Canada do for hungry kids?

What does the US do for kids who don't have clothing, or shoes, or a way to get to school? Or a bed to sleep in at night?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:28 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hiya kid, judging by your lunch money account your parents fall into one of the following categories A) too financially strapped to make ends meet this week, B) owners of a child they do not care for well enough to supply it with lunch money, C) too proud to sign up for free lunches despite qualifying for them, or D) just normal human beings who made a mistake. Our policy of allowing you to go through the line, obtain food, then have it tossed into a garbage can will have the following, dare we say positive, impact on said parents.

A-type parents will feel an overwhelming sense of guilt for either not being quite poor enough to qualify for aid and for doing such a poor [see the pun there?] job of providing for their children. This will certainly lead them to do better and bring more money home so as to not let your stomach go empty again.

B-type parents will feel neither more or less guilt at having an unfed child, but you already knew that didn't you? Having your lunch thrown away before you could eat it will simply teach you a valuable lesson: Cram as much food into your stomach as you can before you get to the cash register! It's not like you're getting fed at home anyway. Life's hard, might as well get used to it now while you're innocent... I mean malleable.

C-type parents, who are obviously too proud for their own good, will have to face the harsh reality of finally signing up for that handout from the powers that be. As well they should! How else are they to finally learn their place in society lest they be reminded of it by their child's stomach grumblings and stalwart outer appearance.

D-types, well that's the trick isn't it? They probably couldn't fund a full year's worth at once, so they're really just C or A-type parents in disguise. Some good healthy fear of falling down a rung of the social ladder will keep you in Walmart clothes instead of Goodwill rummage sale garb!

See kids? Just another incarnation of Jerry Sienfeld's famous soup nazi at work in your local neighborhood public school lunch line. NO LUNCH FOR YOU!

Have a nice day.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:28 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


How do you get them to be a bit more responsible?

Send a note home that says they have so long to pay the debt or the school will help enroll their child in the free lunch program?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:29 PM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm always a little surprised by the heavily subsidized school lunch thing here. It is such a "socialist" policy in a country that sees itself as so much on the individualist/capitalist/bootstrapping edge of the policy spectrum.

As I recall, school lunch/breakfast programs only started in schools after the Black Panthers started doing it as an explicitly communist tactic while people were still on edge about both communism and the Black Panthers. (The quote I remember from reading a book on all this was something like, "You ask a man if he likes communists, he'll say no, sir, I'm patriotic as anyone else. But you ask him about the free breakfast program, and he'll say "I'll kill you if you touch that breakfast program.")
posted by corb at 1:29 PM on September 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


In my kids' school, if your school lunch account is out of money and you aren't in the free lunch program, you get a cheese sandwich. It's boring, not that tasty, but you don't go hungry and nobody throws away your food in front of you.

I think even that is unkind to kids who are without lunch because their home is completely dysfunctional, to the point of not even being able to apply for free lunch, but it's a hell of a lot better than nothing.
posted by edheil at 1:29 PM on September 6, 2013


corb, that book sounds good. Got a link?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:30 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


As I recall, school lunch/breakfast programs only started in schools after the Black Panthers started doing it as an explicitly communist tactic

The National School Lunch Program in the US was started under Harry Truman, so I think this is a garbled memory.
posted by yoink at 1:31 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think it has to do with the Black Panthers...

The Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (79 P.L. 396, 60 Stat. 230) is a United States federal law that created the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to provide low-cost or free school lunch meals to qualified students through subsidies to schools.[1] The program was established as a way to prop up food prices by absorbing farm surpluses, while at the same time providing food to school age children.[2] It was named after Richard Russell, Jr., and signed into law President Harry S. Truman in 1946.

It's a taxpayer subsidy for US farmers. That the kids get food (usually) is just sort of a bonus. Plus it also creates paperwork.
posted by GuyZero at 1:32 PM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


C-type parents, who are obviously too proud for their own good, will have to face the harsh reality of finally signing up for that handout from the powers that be. As well they should! How else are they to finally learn their place in society lest they be reminded of it by their child's stomach grumblings and stalwart outer appearance.

Yes, exactly, because it's not like there's any shame rained down in our culture on people who are on public assistance, especially because it was "their dumb decision to have those kids anyway," no, our culture doesn't say that at all, so why would these parents be too proud to sign their kids on up?
posted by sweetkid at 1:32 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


At the risk of sounding like some sort of right-wing crazy person, someone has to hold parents to account for very, very basic things like either paying for lunch or applying for the free lunch program.

Children of migrant laborers are major beneficiaries of the school lunch program, and these things can easily be beyond those parents for various reasons.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:32 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


So here's the Willingboro School District website, complete with stock pictures of happy, well fed kids and some grainy, dark photos of what looks like a meeting or an interrogation. Here's the actual policy (PDF link) for "Humanitarian Meals" as described by a Kevin Smith, School Business Administration/Board Secretary. It includes his number. no one answered (surprise!) but I will keep trying.

I think I will start by complimenting him on the his "implementation of accountability measures" and discuss the importance of "personal responsibility". I will tell him that the growing tide of hungry children needs to be dealt with. But all these hungry children may, in fact, be an opportunity disguised as a problem.

"I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, a food editor at Fox News that a young healthy Child well Nursed is at a year Old, a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome Food, whether Stewed, Roasted, Baked, or Boyled, and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a Fricasie, or Ragoust.

I'm sure he will get the reference.
posted by skepticbill at 1:32 PM on September 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


It sounds like the biggest problem here is that the paying-for-lunch system is bad. Especially because there's a line in there about how some students who qualify for free or reduced cost lunches are not enrolled in the program for whatever reason.

Of course, what they want is an ultra cheap pay-for-lunch system that they don't have to administer- they could always bill the parents, but that would require staff time to coordinate, for instance, even if they did some kind of autopay thing. So what they're doing is bullying the parents into working with this bad system because they are too cheap to set up a system that works, and when the bad system fails, they want to take it out on the kids in the most humiliating way possible.
posted by Frowner at 1:33 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, and why not have some way for the school to handle the free/reduced enrollment to make sure that everyone qualified gets in? Having it done by families who may be confused, busy or have language or cultural barriers - that's a recipe for things going wrong. Offer it up front when parents enroll their kids. And have a staff person dedicated to follow-up if needed.
posted by Frowner at 1:35 PM on September 6, 2013


At the risk of sounding like some sort of right-wing crazy person, someone has to hold parents to account for very, very basic things like either paying for lunch or applying for the free lunch program.

But it's not holding the parents to account, it's holding the kids to account. Like Bill de Blasio said in his extremely awesome anti-Stop-and-Frisk campaign ad, "these are all our children."
posted by sweetkid at 1:35 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


corb, that book sounds good. Got a link?

I'll see if I can dig up the title - I have some scans of the pages around somewhere I think that I should be able to pull. It was a fantastic book on the Black Panthers that covered a lot of original source material. Though GuyZero notes the law came earlier, it may have been that it was being unevenly enforced or not enough people were admitted to it.
posted by corb at 1:37 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


In elementary school all the way through high school (graduated '93, small Oklahoma town), and even in college (a slightly bigger Oklahoma town 20 miles away) - you went past the lunchlady cashier before you even *got* your food, to have your name checked off, her use her little tally clicker, pay for lunch and get change, whatever. I was on the reduced-price lunches plan for years. Single-parent household, no shame there.

Letting a kid go through the line and then *taking their tray and throwing it away*, just seems extra-cruel. Why don't they pour bleach on it while laughing hysterically in the kid's face until they cry, too?

"HAHAHA YOUR PARENTS MADE A SIMPLE MISTAKE AND NOW YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR IT! WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD, BOBBY!"
posted by mrbill at 1:37 PM on September 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


Meanwhile, today, in the commie paradise known as Taxachusetts:

All students eat breakfast, lunch free in these school districts


The nation's oldest school system has joined a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that has spread to 10 states and the District of Columbia that offers students two free meals every school day, whether or not their families can afford them.

"It's one less weight and one less burden for parents," said Joshua Rivera, whose son is a second-grader at the Maurice J. Tobin School in Boston's Roxbury section.

Known as Community Eligibility Option, the program is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. For schools to qualify, federal officials said, more than 40 percent of students have to be getting food stamps or aid through certain other federal assistance programs.

Besides easing hunger, school officials said, the program eliminates the expense and time of handling paperwork for students who qualify for reduced or free meals and also helps erase a stigma that plagued some students from poor families.

posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:39 PM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


meanwhile, in that *other* overly overweight New Jersey..........

Chris Christie’s lap-band surgery and what it means for 2016
WaPo
By Chris Cillizza
May 7, 2013

Thank god the white people are not suffering eh?

pathetic
posted by lampshade at 1:39 PM on September 6, 2013


What does Canada do for hungry kids?

Well, there is, of course, all kinds of income support for poor families with the idea that those families will draw on that income support to provide school lunches for their kids. My point is not "OMG Canada is a hell hole" or "look how wonderful the US is" (although I do, in fact, think that ensuring that kids get at least one good, nutritious meal each day is a damn fine idea and worth emulating). I'm just interested in the ways in which certain policies get taken for granted once they're in place for long enough such that they become almost invisible even when they run remarkably counter to our cultural stereotypes. I bet if you asked your average, say, Danish person "out of the US and Canada, which one offers heavily subsidized school lunches to all needy children through elementary and high school" they'd pick Canada.
posted by yoink at 1:39 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Given the number of organizations that want to auto debit my bank account every month

Stats on un- and under-banked households in the US as of 2011. If there was a way to sort it by households that have children, it would be much much higher.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:40 PM on September 6, 2013


The lunch program came earlier. The Black Panthers started a breakfast program: Free Breakfast for School Children
posted by Jacqueline at 1:40 PM on September 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


I should have qualified for federal free lunch for my entire childhood. I don't know how many years either of my parents actually managed to fill out the paperwork.

Only because of the awkward kindness of some of the lunch ladies was I able to sneak through the line many days. Many days I didn't even try, because it was so incredibly shameful to not be able to afford, what, 25 years ago? A dollar? Dollar fifty?

That we haven't come up with a way to feed children that doesn't involve counting on their parents to be "accountable" is embarassing. Nevermind that getting free lunch was itself a very visible thing in that time.

My parents could not be held accountable, for a number of reasons.

I just. I'm sorry, I can't really be any more coherent than this because I have something in my eye.
posted by bilabial at 1:40 PM on September 6, 2013 [21 favorites]


Here we go (warning: pdf). 13.6% of children live in unbanked households as of 2011.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:42 PM on September 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Meanwhile, today, in the commie paradise known as Taxachusetts:

All students eat breakfast, lunch free in these school districts



Oh man. imagine that, someone has found a way to figure out this problem!
posted by bilabial at 1:42 PM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Talk about trashing tax money; but the school still gets paid for each meal through the line. OK. Stupendous.
posted by buzzman at 1:43 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Children of migrant laborers are major beneficiaries of the school lunch program, and these things can easily be beyond those parents for various reasons.

So, I just need to reiterate that I'm not defending this guy, but I'm slightly sympathetic to his problem. School superintendents are impotent cogs in the machine and this guy gets held to account for all sorts of crap that's not his fault and completely out of his control like whether anyone bothers to fill out their free lunch paperwork. Now, he gets pretty well paid for doing pretty little, so I expect no one around here is going to have any sympathy for him but he gets a tiny sliver of sympathy from me for having watched what was probably an actual human life slowly turn into a daily grind of mute desperation. But we all make our choices and this superintendent has got to live with the consequences of his bad decisions.

Anyway, my actual comment was that to just register so that your kid doesn't get sent home at 7:30 AM on day one you have to fill out a pretty copious amount of paperwork around here which includes TB testing so I don't think not speaking English is sufficient reason in this case. If there's any significant number of ESL students the school has resources for helping parents with paperwork from registration to free lunches.
posted by GuyZero at 1:43 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


And 25.1% of children are from "underbanked" households. 25%!
posted by small_ruminant at 1:45 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's kind of eerie how much this story resembles that arc of Orange is the New Black (Netflix show set in a women's prison) where Piper doesn't eat because she insulted the chef and her commissary money hasn't come in yet.

Although at least in OITNB, no one was throwing her food away in front of her.

School to prison pipeline, anyone?
posted by subdee at 1:46 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


If there's any significant number of ESL students the school has resources for helping parents with paperwork from registration to free lunches.

While I'm sure this may be true in some areas, I can attest to it not being true in all places. I have a dear friend who is an ESL teacher at a Southern California high school whose student population has a very significant English as second language population (many of the parents don't speak any English at all) and there are far, far too few resources available. This teacher friend of mine spends an enormous amount of her own time reaching out to students and families and working to gain outside resources, because otherwise most of her students won't get food/school supplies/transportation, etc.

(And although I'm sure she'll never read this, I love you for this Meghan.)
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 1:52 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Because kids with parents who can't get their lunch organized for whatever reason need fewer sources of reliable adult support. Fabulous.
posted by Space Kitty at 1:53 PM on September 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


The school district has 4968 students. 51% of students are on free or reduced lunch.

A lunch costs $2-$2.50 each, according to the student handbook. Last year there was $50,000 of unpaid lunches - or 25,000. So we're talking about 25,000 unpaid lunches across 2500 kids now - or 10 lunches per kid per year, out of 180 - or 5% of all (non-subsidized) lunches.

That does seem like a pretty high percentage to never collect on - I wonder what kind of attempts they made to collect this money, and how concentrated the non-payment was.
posted by jacalata at 1:54 PM on September 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Whatsoever you do to the least of my children, that you do unto me" -- Jesus.

I keep hearing about how we are a Christian nation that celebrates Christ and Christmas and blah blah blah.

Fact is they are full of shit.

America is the greatest most prosperous country that has ever existed and we cannot somehow feed our children ?

Dr. Ronald Taylor, the Superintendent - you fail at America, sir. You fail.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:56 PM on September 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


This raises some weird dichotomies in my mind.

1. Part of me kind of understands the impetus behind placing the responsibility of feeding children (who aren't on Free/Reduced lunch) on the parent. I mean, I don't make a ton of money, and I make sure to feed my dog, let alone my daughter.

2. Buuut... I have been known to forget my daughter's juice (or snack) on the way to daycare, so I don't think it's out of the range of expectation that I would screw up eventually on her lunch card once she's in school. It's not like I'm in the next room when she's upset because she's hungry... and I would be mighty pissed if she wasn't fed during the day.

3. I have a fantasy about staging a "protest" where pizzas are delivered to the school parking lot for a week, but only after every child has went through the line with no money, collecting the refuse food and having news crews show up.

I guess I'm with jacalata on this. What did they do to get recompense? Obviously, this is more of a problem with the system. If these children are only averaging 10 lunches per yer year, why not deduct the "gratis" lunch from the card as well as the current one from the card once it's filled? If they can't keep track of that, where are they getting this number from, and how does anyone not know it's not cafeteria staff walking off with crates of chicken nuggets and saying "Oh, there was 11 hungry kids today, so we had to give them free lunch, and that's why the inventory vs. accounting has a "missing" case of nuggets."
posted by Debaser626 at 2:05 PM on September 6, 2013


You know, that is child abuse. Emotional child abuse. Sending a terrible message to that child, and the other children who witness the action-adults cannot be trusted.

The fact that that happens to be true more often than not doesn't help.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:05 PM on September 6, 2013 [25 favorites]


...says that the district will warn parents when their account is down to five dollars, which is about three days before it's empty.

But can they guarantee this? If they can't (which they can't, and won't) what is the recourse to that?

Why not just bring back the Automat?
posted by Debaser626 at 2:09 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man. I wonder what my school career would have been like had I not skipped so many brekkies.
posted by Samizdata at 2:09 PM on September 6, 2013


Just to be clear, I wasn't dissing Canada, yoink and others. It was a genuine question, not a sneer.

We've had the lunch programs so long here that I hadn't given much thought about what Canada (or other countries) might do to counteract hunger in a different way.
posted by emjaybee at 2:10 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because when you get the card, they don't actually tell you how much lunch is for the year. You just have to ballpark how much you THINK lunch will be.

It's been decades since I've been in a school lunch line.

My schools had the same set price for lunch, 75 cents or whatever it was, every day.
You either paid cash or gave them little prepaid ticket out of a book (of 10, I think) your parents bought.
Of course, back then you got what you got, there wasn't a "menu" as such.

Your school has varying prices per day? How does that work? Is it because of a la carte choices?
posted by madajb at 2:13 PM on September 6, 2013


So in other words, the poor kids aren't subject to this rule - they get their lunch. The kids whose parents (presumably) have enough to pay for their kids' lunches, but let the account run empty (even after a heads-up) don't get lunch.

I'm as willing as anyone to get angry about people treating kids and their education as a profit-making exercise, but this kind of looks like manufactured outrage to a large extent.


Schools shouldn't penalise children of parents who don't care.
posted by ersatz at 2:14 PM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Surely the school district could just put a lien on the kids, no? That way, once they're sold as chattel, they'll get their money.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:18 PM on September 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm not defending this guy, but I'm slightly sympathetic to his problem.

Oh, I'm totally sympathetic to his problem. It's a legitimate problem that needs actual solving and not some handwavey, "It helps the poor, just find the money somewhere m'kay." And you're right, he probably unfairly shoulders the blame for the problem. But that still doesn't mean it's in his lap to solve. The reason I'm skeptical of him—and again, I'm open to being corrected by somebody more familiar with this school district—is that I've seen this play out in other government agencies many, many times. Bureaucracy creates gaps, and those gaps create problems for cog-workers. The worker feels stressed, and the bureaucracy ain't movin' to close the gaps and the problems keep comin', so finally the worker just says, "Fuck it, I'll do it myself."

I'm speculating that this is the mechanism behind this superintendent's decision. And PS, it's the same mechanism that would lead a cafeteria clerk to say, "Fuck the policy, I'm giving this kid a free lunch," or a teacher to say, "Fuck the policy, I'll buy the kid's lunch." If the superintendent is having trouble collecting money from parents who owe, and if collecting that money is even part of his job, then I'm sure he has recourse. It may not be as spunky or immediate as shaming a child in front of his classmates, but what can I say, things are rough all over.
posted by cribcage at 2:22 PM on September 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


""OMG Canada is a hell hole""

It's all maple-scented death panels, pretty much.
posted by klangklangston at 2:29 PM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Ooh I like maple!
posted by Mister_A at 2:37 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's all maple-scented death panels, pretty much.

But the really important question: will they go with my couch?
posted by corb at 2:56 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


The immediately relevant comparison is Canada, where there is, typically, no school lunch program whatsoever. Kids just bring a lunchbox with them from home (which is what I also grew up doing: well, a brown paper bag). Even with this latest little "no pay/no tray" twist, the program would represent a significant leftward move if implemented in Canada.

You appear to have missed out on hotdog day and pizza day. You know, those magical days in primary school where you got to test the elasticity of your gut by gorging on unlimited hotdogs or pizzas. I have almost physical memory burps just thinking about it 35 years later. It's probably not a thing anymore. (but yeah we didn't have any food infrastructure at all - the stuff for hotdog day was brought into the school for just that day).
posted by srboisvert at 3:09 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


> A lunch costs $2-$2.50 each, according to the student handbook

Odd -- they're $3 at the schools in my town (warning: PDF) for K-6, and I had the impression that was set at a federal level.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:14 PM on September 6, 2013


To give us some context, here's some basic back-of-Windows-Calculator figures:

$5 is three days before it's empty. That means lunch costs $1.67 per student per day.

Exhibit A: this page, stating that New Jersey public school enrollment is about 1.36M, and there are 2,492 public schools, averaging at 545.7 students per school.

546 x 1.67 is about $909.58 in prices of lunches for one school, all things averaged. At around 180 days, that's about $163,723.95 per school year. That is not a huge cost considering the amount of good it does, we're not even in the $200K territory here. That's probably subsidized, of course, but the parent doesn't see that.

(NOTE: Anyone, feel free to check my math. I've made stupid errors before.)

My guess: this whole matter is something to try to forestall parents casually not paying for school lunch becoming a "thing," by promising Dire Consequences.
posted by JHarris at 3:14 PM on September 6, 2013


One more thing: If I was in the teacher's union, I'd be all over this shit, having a union fundraiser to pay for these kids' lunches for the school year. That'd be a huge fucking arrow in the quiver for the "We care more about students than you do" contract negotiations.

So do additional non-teaching related work in exchange for an arrow in an empty quiver? I agree it would be a small PR coup but in reality it would be working for free to do what the school administrators and government is already supposed to do. They will just think the optics are temporarily bad the efficiency gains are fantastic.
posted by srboisvert at 3:16 PM on September 6, 2013


I don't have children and go to great lengths to avoid them, but the idea of little kids going hungry after being shamed in front in their peer group makes me want to cry. Children should not be punished in this mindbogglingly cruel way and the fact that it's entirely not their fault makes it so much worse.

I honestly wonder how the people who made this decision manage to sleep at night.
posted by winna at 3:19 PM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


On an enormous extravagant bed made of smug self-satisfaction and bootstraps.
posted by elizardbits at 3:23 PM on September 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


I was a free/reduced lunch kid for most of my childhood. At my school, the free lunch kids had to go early every other week to get a meal card from the school secretary. We were the only ones with the meal cards--all others paid cash. I didn't mind this, but my sister found it enormously embarrassing and would sometimes just not eat. Kids are highly aware of social inequities and are often teased about them. I find this whole policy pretty abhorrent in light of that.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:31 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was thinking "instead of throwing the food away, shouldn't they give it to a needy family somewhere," but then I realized that the mindset seems to be "It's better to throw away perfectly good food than let some child without the money for it eat it."

But still, wasted food. I modestly propose that they should, instead, require the cafeteria workers to eat the meal immediately in front of the child, ideally while saying "see what you're making me do?" and then subtract the cost of the meal from the worker's paycheck.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:37 PM on September 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


I mean why not just chain the kids up on the fucking playground wearing a giant scarlet P for Poor?

i don't like people
posted by elizardbits at 3:39 PM on September 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


In the very Republican city where I work they recently implemented the federal program mentioned above giving every student breakfast and lunch for free. And who could think feeding schoolchildren is a bad thing? Apparently almost every commenter to the local paper, that's who.
posted by TedW at 3:44 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


My kids' school gives PB&J, milk, and an apple to kids that don't have any money on their accts.

If that was too expensive, would a cold bowl of cereal kill the school's budget? A granola bar? Jesus.
posted by codswallop at 3:45 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree it would be a small PR coup but in reality it would be working for free to do what the school administrators and government is already supposed to do. They will just think the optics are temporarily bad the efficiency gains are fantastic.

That's true but letting kids go hungry to make a point is bad no matter how you slice it. :(
posted by codswallop at 3:49 PM on September 6, 2013


You know what would be fucking awesome? The next time this guy shows up in a restaurant, they refuse to serve him, and tell him to his face it's because missing a meal will "send him a message".

I would patronize that restaurant for the rest of my life.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:50 PM on September 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


Apparently almost every commenter to the local paper, that's who.

"There is this attitude that if something comes from the yankee government that it's "free" to the local area. "

the yankee government?
posted by pyramid termite at 3:54 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Given how crappy I remember the the school lunches being, maybe these kids are being done a favor?
(/sarcasm)
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:55 PM on September 6, 2013


No, they're not. (/sincerity)
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:57 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


TedW: "Apparently almost every commenter to the local paper, that's who."

Ugh, why did you make me read these.
Horrifying.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:58 PM on September 6, 2013


nushustu: "If this happened in my school, guess what would happen? I would end up having to take what meager money I made and pay for a bunch of school lunches, because if the kids don't eat, they certainly aren't going to learn."

When it happened in my elementary school that lunch money was forgotten/not had, the student could go to the office and borrow a dollar, which is what lunch cost at the time. Good thing, too, because I took advantage of that several times a year. Presumably if someone was a regular user of that system they would talk to the parents about reduced or free lunch.
posted by wierdo at 4:10 PM on September 6, 2013


As I recall, school lunch/breakfast programs only started in schools after the Black Panthers started doing it as an explicitly communist tactic while people were still on edge about both communism and the Black Panthers. then you recall incorrectly. I was eating free school lunches in Berkeley before the Black Panthers were even formed, and long before one of them murdered the Mother of a friend of mine. Do not glorify them.
posted by seamallowance at 4:13 PM on September 6, 2013


In the very Republican city where I work they recently implemented the federal program mentioned above giving every student breakfast and lunch for free. And who could think feeding schoolchildren is a bad thing? Apparently almost every commenter to the local paper, that's who.

In other news: Mystery fliers around Portland threaten to expose welfare recipients

"Mystery fliers being posted around Portland, Ore., threaten to expose the names of those receiving food stamps or disability benefits so the neighborhood "can decide who is truly in need of food."

oh, and you lazy disabled people, don't think you'll escape being shamed either:

"This is the second wave of mystery letters to pop up around Portland. Another letter last month targeted people receiving disability benefits.

"There are sixteen people in this neighborhood who vote and receive cash disability payments," said fliers posted in August, KPTV reported at the time.


"The names of these people are being posted where they can be seen by taxpayers and the neighborhood can decide who is truly disabled."

The letter even accused those receiving disability payments of being a threat to democracy.

"Benjamin Franklin said 'when the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.’ Some of us in the neighborhood wish to save this democracy and to stand in the way of those who would destroy it," it added.

The Franklin quote is popular among conservatives but its authenticity is unclear.
"

Choo-choo-choo-choo the bagger-laden GOP train leaves another station: direction - rightward.
posted by VikingSword at 4:15 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do not glorify them.

I believe you have misinterpreted the comment you are quoting.
posted by elizardbits at 4:18 PM on September 6, 2013


It's amazing. People who are delighted by a trillion dollar war, much of which was basically a stupefyingly gouging no-questions-asked giveaway to well-connected contractors, lie awake at night snarled in their sheets grumbling and swearing about a child getting something to eat. I can't believe I'm even the same species as these people.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:22 PM on September 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


If there's a Hell, I hope Ronald Taylor's punishment is to be forced to eat all the school lunches he denied to poor children.
posted by Atom Eyes at 4:24 PM on September 6, 2013


the yankee government?

The one that won the War of Northern Aggression, still a sore point with many.
posted by TedW at 4:26 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


VikingSword: ""The names of these people are being posted where they can be seen by taxpayers and the neighborhood can decide who is truly disabled.""

Wow, that is, I can't even,... I dunno if it's having grown up in Germany with history books full of pictures of hanged people with signs spelling "jew" around their necks, but this type of stuff is somehow extra revolting to me beyond my normal levels of disgust in response to willful stupidity and ignorance. This nasty, hateful desire to drag people into the town square and to publicly shame and punish them. This certainty about who is right and who is wrong, who is good and who is bad, who has value and who doesn't. This complete lack of compassion and empathy. It makes my skin crawl.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:35 PM on September 6, 2013 [15 favorites]


I was kind of surprised that this was Willingboro, but the superintendent is apparently a "turn the tides" type who has ruffled teachers' feathers as well. Willingboro is a predominantly African American town and a Democratic stronghold in a fairly Republican county. I found the "fuck you Willingboro" comment near the top particularly tasteless, because the town has generally had worse unemployment than the rest of the county.

The human angle of this sucks, of course, and I hope the cashiers refuse to follow such a ludicrous policy. But it's worth realizing that this is a problem in a largely African American Democratic town and not a white Republican one.
posted by graymouser at 4:37 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Pipeski: Hold on. The article says "The new lunch program states that if kids, not on the Free and Reduced Lunch program, don't have money to pay for their school lunch, they will go hungry for the day."

So in other words, the poor kids aren't subject to this rule - they get their lunch. The kids whose parents (presumably) have enough to pay for their kids' lunches, but let the account run empty (even after a heads-up) don't get lunch.

I'm as willing as anyone to get angry about people treating kids and their education as a profit-making exercise, but this kind of looks like manufactured outrage to a large extent.


Before I started teaching, I was the office/data manager at a couple of different charter schools in Minneapolis. Getting the Application for Educational Benefits, aka lunch forms, completed by every family was a huge part of my job for the first couple of months. The data that's in by Oct 1 is what the next year's funding is based on (I believe things get adjusted and corrected after the fact, but that's the money you get up front. The lunch program is a lot of money and, as someone mentioned above, if you have over a certain percentage of free/reduced kids, your school gets additional funding.)

The thing that always flabbergasted me is how low the allowed income is. This document [warning: doc] shows the eligibility guidelines for MN. I know that because I've never been actually poor, my calibration is a bit off for this, but I don't know how my families who wee just above the guidelines made it. (I looked, but couldn't find a similar chart for NJ.) My point is: I think lots of kids who don't qualify are still "poor," just not officially decreed as such.

But all our kids got free breakfast and lunch.

And re: shaming f/r kids: in Minnesota, you're required to make it impossible to tell who is getting free lunch. No color-coded coupons or cards just for the f/r kids. You get ticked off the list at the beginning of the line because in most schools, things are more orderly there and kids aren't standing with a full tray to drop if you distract them. Then someone enters that data into a computer program wherein the kids are coded free/reduced/paid and the school or district gets reimbursed accordingly. Even lunchladies and teachers don't have access to that data, just people who administer the numbers.
posted by MsDaniB at 4:39 PM on September 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


Ironically, the winner of Top Chef season seven, Kevin Sbraga, is from Willingboro. I was delighted when he won because as graymouser says, it's not a town that's had it easy. I wonder what he thinks of kids at his old school going hungry.
posted by nev at 4:40 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow, that is, I can't even,... I dunno if it's having grown up in Germany with history books full of pictures of hanged people with signs spelling "jew" around their necks,

Well, we all know what they had in store for disabled people, so the resonance is not surprising. But note, how this hatred of the weaker, the different, the 'other' whether on ethnic or sexual grounds is something that's very much a theme on the extreme right. The trouble starts when a major political party moves toward the extreme, and what used to be extreme is the new normal. What happened in Germany didn't happen all at once overnight. There was a gradual creep, each step accepted, until they found themselves in the heart of hell. That's why it is a disturbing sign to see these trial baloons sent out by major presidential candidates like Gingrich (who even had the lead at a certain point) aimed at rolling back the most basic achievements, such as child-labor laws. We laugh, but they used to laugh at the guys in Germany too. And don't hold only Republicans responsible. There's been a orchestrated political response with the narrative of "the safety net is there for frauds, and so the more we cut it, the better we are" ever since the Great Society, and Clinton did his best to play to that with his 'welfare reform'.
posted by VikingSword at 4:48 PM on September 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


When Jesus gave a speech and nobody brought lunch, did he help them find something to eat ? No. He took those loaves and fishes and ate them right in front of all those freeloaders to teach them self reliance.

Can you imagine what things would have been like if Jesus just used a miracle to feed the multitudes ? Cats and dogs, living together, I'm sure.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:48 PM on September 6, 2013 [16 favorites]


The article contains a mystery number:
"Upwards of $50,0000 for students who had not applied for Free and Reduced Lunch who received free lunches," says Dr. Taylor. "Part of the reason we're doing this is to help hold parents accountable."

If that number is actually $500,000 it seems clear that the district would do well to spend 1/10 of that on a person whose job it is to get those forms filled out.

If it's only $50,000 then they should hire someone just for August and September to do as much as they can.

Which is the right number?
posted by MsDaniB at 4:53 PM on September 6, 2013


Woke up in the Mornin', put on my new plastic glove.
Serve some reheated salisbury steak, with a little slice of love.
Got no clue what the chicken pot pie is made of.
I just know everything is doin' fine down here in... Lunchlady Land.

Well I wear this net on my head, 'cause my red hair is fallin' out.
I wear these brown orthopeadic shoes, 'cause i got a bad case of the Gout.
I know you want seconds on the corndogs, but theres no reason to shout.
Everybody gets enough food down here in... Lunchlady Land.
posted by banshee at 5:01 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I did not read all the comments and it looks like quite the interesting thread.

So this is just my general first impression on the topic: Did I miss when laws were changed about school lunches? This sound like every school I or my children went to. Don't have your lunch money then ya don't eat. I distinctly remember my daughter calling my work around lunch, nearly in tears, begging me to get some money to the school (luckily, the school took credit cards over the phone.)
posted by _paegan_ at 5:01 PM on September 6, 2013


My second thoughts... A) All the schools I encountered -checked- before you got in line, so there the public shaming was at the beginning of the line, not the end. B) I'd totally get behind the idea of breakfast/lunch included as the general cost of each child's education - I can see lots and lots of benefits to this idea.

A lot of commentors seem to think this is about the poor and poor shaming.... um, the Poor (in general) are on the free/reduced lunches - this is about the kids who's parents don't qualify or won't decide to qualify for that program. When a parent doesn't pay rent, the kids suffer too. So I feel for the kids but am failing to see how this is any different than the rest of the time.

I'm usually all up in arms about poor shaming and holding kids accountable for adult behavior so, yeah, my lack of outrage is even surprising me.
posted by _paegan_ at 5:21 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


idb: "I wonder if Boston's approach of providing free school lunches for all will turn out to be more cost effective in the end. MA is doing some things right."

MCMikeNamara: "Meanwhile, today, in the commie paradise known as Taxachusetts: "The nation's oldest school system has joined a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that has spread to 10 states and the District of Columbia that offers students two free meals every school day, whether or not their families can afford them."

My district is one of the pilot districts for the Community Eligibility Option; we were one of the test sites. About 75% of our students district-wide qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch, and 25 of our 28 schools qualify as CEO schools, including my neighborhood elementary school.

It does, in fact, save us (and the feds) considerable money in administrative costs even after paying for the extra food. The cafeteria staff LOVES it because it's so much less hassle than processing all those forms and using all the various systems and cards and kids forget cards and whatnot. (Now they just basically punch a number into the register to keep a tally.) The teachers LOVE it because far fewer kids are hungry and there aren't such obvious socio-economic markers in the lunchroom. The school nurses LOVE it because there's less junk food being eaten for lunch. The prep kitchen LOVES it (not all of our schools have on-site kitchens; some meals are prepped off-site and sent in to schools in special warmers) because it's much easier to send an accurate quantity of meals and waste less food.

The parents universally like it a lot too, which surprised me! It's one less hassle for them to deal with, hot lunch accommodates special diets, and parents who don't "need" it are glad their kid's classmates aren't going hungry. A lot of middle-class parents who don't "need" it feel some vague guilt about taking advantage of a program "for the poor," even though they know it actually saves us money, but most of them who mentioned it to me said, "And so I went to Costco and got a ton of Kleenex and donated that to the school until I felt less guilty about it." I live in a middle-class neighborhood zoned into a high-poverty school, so a lot of my neighbors have kids in the CEO program and there's been a lot of discussion about it. People have been universally pretty pleased with it. People literally could not believe it when we said, "Yeah, it's a pilot program, the feds are just going to feed entire schools and see if it's cheaper than doing all the paperwork." Middle-income parents were very anxious about not cheating the government by getting a program they weren't entitled to, and the local gadflies who come to public meetings were SURE we were defrauding the federal government or blowing smoke up their butts. We had to explain the program at several school board meetings and a whole bunch of times at community forums because people just could. not. believe. it. But it's been a few years now, and people like it!

Prior to CEO (and at the few schools that don't have it), we did the cheese sandwich model mentioned above for kids who forgot their lunch or lunch money. Actually, usually the principal would look at absences for the day and give a go-ahead to give the child a hot lunch anyway because there's usually a few left over, but if not, boring cheese sandwich. Boring cheese sandwich also available for students who won't eat the day's cafeteria options.

I say this in every school lunch thread, but at our school board meetings we eat the same cafeteria lunch the kids do (although we're not portion-controlled) and it's not bad. Some of it's bland, and the hot vegetable is repetitive, but it's very different than when I was in school 20 years ago, a lot healthier, and often pretty tasty. All grains are whole grains, there's a LOT of vegetables in everything, more attention is paid to appetizing presentation and bright colors and fresh food. It's still industrial food -- the hand fruits are always pretty meh, I notice in particular -- but it's pretty good for industrial food!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:22 PM on September 6, 2013 [26 favorites]


I think accountability is great! But what are these kids being held accountable for? It only works if you're holding people accountable for things they have actual control over.

Most of the daily humiliations of school that I remember, were about things I had no actual control over. I think the idea was that if I were accountable, then I would move heaven and earth/pressure my parents/do whatever it took to comply with every detail of the school's demands. Which for the most part I did, but it still didn't mean I could control everything, which in turn meant facing the consequences.

I doubt that any kid would have been knowingly left to go hungry, however. I remember one girl was crying in class because she'd forgotten her lunch money and was hungry, and instead of letting her go hungry the teacher went half mad with exasperation and contempt and told her how stupid she was, but the teacher also got her some lunch.

I don't know, I guess what bemuses me is the idea that school has ever been intended to be anything but humiliating. Maybe it's the pernicious effects of the self-esteem movement.
posted by tel3path at 5:32 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


When a parent doesn't pay rent, the kids suffer too.

When a parent doesn't pay rent, the parent also gets kicked out of the apartment. I doubt anyone's going to these parents' homes or workplaces and slapping the sandwiches out of their hands.
posted by dirigibleman at 5:53 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Isn't all the "Protestant Work Ethic" shit a clear violation of the 1st Amendment Separation of Church and State?

The next thing this shit leads to is making the kids pray 5 times a day.

Just say NO to Sharia's Slippery Slope!
posted by mikelieman at 5:57 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


"So do additional non-teaching related work in exchange for an arrow in an empty quiver? I agree it would be a small PR coup but in reality it would be working for free to do what the school administrators and government is already supposed to do. They will just think the optics are temporarily bad the efficiency gains are fantastic."

Well, additional organizing work for the union, which will have organizing staff, for an effective counter-message that can be used in bargaining (I'm not sure what you meant when you said "arrow in an empty quiiver;" if your quiver is empty then of course you want an arrow). And that it's part of what the administration should be doing already is part of the point — people remember goodwill like that. You could even do something like a fundraiser to pay for a month's worth, then put the ball back in the administration's court, along with a, "Well, we can't keep doing this at current pay levels…"

Basically, good teachers unions are always looking for ways they can do a bit of low-cost reinforcement of the message that they care more about students than anyone else does, since that's what ends up justifying salaries and preventing backlash when they strike.

You seem to be grumbling that government should just work without politics, which would be nice, but it doesn't.
posted by klangklangston at 6:16 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


yoink: "The immediately relevant comparison is Canada, where there is, typically, no school lunch program whatsoever. Kids just bring a lunchbox with them from home (which is what I also grew up doing: well, a brown paper bag). Even with this latest little "no pay/no tray" twist, the program would represent a significant leftward move if implemented in Canada."

I can't speak for all of Canada or even our district as I'm not sure if the lunch program at my daughter's school is a district thing or a school thing. However my daughter's school offers lunch for a few dollars and low income families can apply for partial to full subsidy. The paper work encourages parents who can afford it to participate as a way of subsidizing the operation for poor families.
posted by Mitheral at 6:20 PM on September 6, 2013


Not Canadian AnecdoteFilter:

Nobody who casually knows me believes me when I tell them that for years I was the smallest kid in class. I was bottom 5 percentile in height and weight until I was like 12. As a kid, I didn't understand insomnia the way I do as an adult, and consequently I walked around as a tiny kid with dark circles under his eyes.

I remember this as clear as right now, I'm walking up to the lunch line with my two-hour-old-friends in 1st grade, and the lunch lady not looking up from her clipboard, says "Name?" I give her my name, she says still looking down "Hm, not on the free lunch li-" while she looks at me, gasps and does that hand to the throat thing, and says, Sphinx, huh? Go on ahead, kiddo.
posted by Sphinx at 6:43 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am shaking with rage right now. Did a group of adults who have a legal and moral obligation to protect the welfare of children really decide to starve them because their parents screwed up? The district I teach for is poor and has many issues regarding administration, but I can't imagine them ever deciding to deny food to a child.
posted by nestor_makhno at 7:22 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


"The district I teach for is poor and has many issues regarding administration, but I can't imagine them ever deciding to deny food to a child."

To be fair, the children of Willingboro are allergic to everything but gold dust and cocaine. One habit the school can't afford to support, the other, well — do you really want to give children cocaine?

In conclusion, winners don't use drugs.
posted by klangklangston at 7:27 PM on September 6, 2013


I don't know, I guess what bemuses me is the idea that school has ever been intended to be anything but humiliating. Maybe it's the pernicious effects of the self-esteem movement.

What? "The situation is bad, therefore, it's alright to make it worse"? Even if you believe school is nothing but humiliating, why add one humiliation more; one that is inhumane and easily resolvable?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:39 PM on September 6, 2013


When I was at university in Germany (where they have cafeterias that serve hot lunches every day), I was pretty poor, and once I got to the front of the line with the cheapest thing they sold on my tray, and realised I was 10 cents short. The lunch lady threw my meal in the bin in front of me, and I had to go hungry that day. This was ten years ago and it is still one of my most humiliating and upsetting memories. I cried in front of everyone because I was so hungry and so embarrassed. (And angry about the decision that says they would rather waste a whole lunch than give me 10 cents worth of free food.)

I can't even begin to imagine how I would have handled those feelings if I was a little kid.
posted by lollusc at 9:07 PM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh, and the cafeteria lady SCOLDED me for "making" her waste food.
posted by lollusc at 9:10 PM on September 6, 2013


I'm sure it's buried in the School Lunches are a Black Panther-inspired Socialist Plot links, but doesn't anyone make their lunch at home and take it to school anymore?
posted by Mezentian at 9:19 PM on September 6, 2013


Our district, in which I am now an administrator, a few years ago decided to contract out the administration of the lunch program. Only a few days into this new venture, the principal, who is now the superintendent, walked in as the lunch program people literally took lunch sacks out of kids' hands and threw them in the trash. The outsourced program didn't last long after that. We now have free breakfast for all students and if a child's lunch account is empty, there is a three day grace period, and even after that time expires, they still get a sack lunch. A community service organization also provides "backpack" food on Fridays for kids who might not have enough to eat on the weekend. Which kids are on the F/R program is highly confidential.

Our lunch program never breaks out of the red, but it's something our community has chosen to support. And don't underestimate the power a superintendent has to make decisions. They are far from a cog in the system, unless that's all they want to be.
posted by tamitang at 9:24 PM on September 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


In "socialist", "left-wing" Australia, my kids are at a state (government) school. We make lunch for our kids and they take it to school -- unless we want to get them a lunch order from the cafeteria that day, which we pay for (with cash) by sending the kids to school with the money. It was the same when I was in primary (elementary) school, and at high school as well.

But if a child goes to school without lunch, they're given one from the cafeteria, without a single question as to why, and then the cost of that lunch goes onto the school fees that we owe.

No child goes hungry. That's just horrifying.
posted by nonspecialist at 9:32 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Though, if the Liberal government wins the federal election today, it'll probably be child-labor and daily beatings for the poor for the next three years)
posted by nonspecialist at 9:33 PM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


"...the district says that if a student goes through the lunch line and doesn't have enough money to pay for it, the lunch staff is instructed to throw the meal away."
Why does it have to be thrown in the garbage? Wouldn't it just be set to the side for the next kid that wants that particular meal?

Couldn't they just bill the parents for unpaid lunches instead of making the kids go hungry? Their fines could accrue like late library books would.
posted by lovelygirl at 9:42 PM on September 6, 2013


Insisting that anyone — especially children — must go hungry because "actions have consequences" or because feeding hungry people fosters "dependence on government" doesn't make people look like a fiscally-responsible, constitutional-principles conservatives. It makes them look like a monsters.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:49 PM on September 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


Note to all parents with kids in school: please keep a damn loaf of bread and some peanut butter & jelly in your house at all times, so we don't have to get all worked up about this kind of crap.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:09 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


"but doesn't anyone make their lunch at home and take it to school anymore?"

Not very many. Most of our families have all available adults working (or trying to work), whether that's a single-parent family or a two-working-parent family or some other arrangement. As more and more parents work, fewer parents have time to make lunches, and as more students get hot lunch, more kids (especially in elementary schools) want to get hot lunch like all the other kids. There are also a lot more food restrictions these days -- something like 1/3 of the schools in our district are peanut-free this year -- that parents must abide by, whereas the cafeteria vendors handle that all for us.

School lunches are also just a lot better than they used to be. I'm a stay-at-home mom, and even two years ago I would have said, "I think I'd rather my kid bring his lunch at least most of the week." Now that the new guidelines have been phased in (and also we switched produce vendors), I'd actually be pretty comfortable with my kid eating school lunch every day. We're pretty organic-homemade-ish, but coming up with lunch every day is a brain-taxing hassle, and honestly the school lunch guidelines are more strict about vegetables than I am! We'll see next year what my older kid wants to do when he's at school all day and has lunch, but if he wants to eat school lunch, I'm okay with that.

(When I was in grade school, 25 year ago, not only did everyone bring lunch from home and they did not serve lunch or have the facilities to do so in the grade school -- cold milk yes, but no lunches -- but if you lived within 1/4 mile of the school, you were expected to walk home for lunch every day and then walk back to school, because everyone had a stay-at-home-parent and the cafeteria was small and also I apparently grew up in crazytown. Can't even imagine that today.)

"Our lunch program never breaks out of the red"

Yeah, our doesn't either. 15 or 20 years ago most programs around here operated at a profit, but these days that's basically impossible, just from increased compliance costs, even if you're not serving a high-poverty population. I think most schools see it as a break-even proposition at best these days, and for most it's a cost center even after federal reimbursements. (But a WORTHY cost center because hungry kids can't learn and also people shouldn't be hungry in a country this wealthy.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:29 PM on September 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


something like 1/3 of the schools in our district are peanut-free this year

This is how it's going to happen. This is how I'm going to turn into a grumpy(er) old(er) man.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:33 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


"This is how it's going to happen. This is how I'm going to turn into a grumpy(er) old(er) man."

It's mostly schools with K-2 kids, because little kids trade food and can't carry their own epi pens and don't know enough to manage their own allergies. By junior high (5-8, here) it's generally just a peanut-free table and the kids watch their own intake. If that makes you feel better. It IS sort-of shocking on first glance how many restrictions there are, until you realize, oh, wait, we're talking about five-year-olds who are constantly being told to share who are at risk of dropping dead if they share the wrong thing. Let's just not have the wrong thing until they are slightly older!

Also once you introduce them to sunbutter as a substitute for peanut butter they never want to go back. :P
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:42 PM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


My textbook for the course I took on health care economics said that the history of the federal lunch program was that the draft for WWII had to reject so many 18 year old kids because of malnourishment (presumably from, y'know, the whole great depression thing) so that Truman, a former artillery officer in WWI, urged congress that as a priority one National Defense matter of ensuring military superiority we needed to make sure kids got a square meal a day.

I think it would have been hilarious in a grim, graveyard humor dystopian way if they'd decided to only give boys eligibility for the federal lunch program.... but if anyone was wondering why it was uncharacteristic for the United States to implement such a socialist policy it's because it was done in the name of oiling the war machine.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 11:07 PM on September 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


ob1quixote: “Insisting that anyone — especially children — must go hungry because "actions have consequences" or because feeding hungry people fosters "dependence on government" doesn't make people look like a fiscally-responsible, constitutional-principles conservatives. It makes them look like a monsters.”
Please pretend this is in English. I swear between the edit window and the Internet in general my ability to proofread has completely evaporated. I even went back and fixed the cases during the window but somehow missed taking out the articles. My apologies.

Back to the subject at hand, if this district is anything like the ones I've dealt with in the past, the whole thing is probably complicated by the fact that food service company bills the district as a whole, but the usage has to be accounted for school by school.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:31 PM on September 6, 2013


The food service company… Christ.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:41 PM on September 6, 2013


I've neglected to fill my kid's account plenty of times mostly cause I can get scatterbrained (yo, parents), but lunch was always had. I figured it was just a negative balance kind of thing that I would get around to. Nope. I found out that it was against district policy and that the main lunch-lady was covering every kid in this situation herself! So I squared that away. The woman was probably making $8/hr or something ridiculously insufficient for this kind of generosity. What a saint she was.

Taylor can go fuck himself. To paraphrase, first, we kill fire all the administrators...that should free up some fucking lunch money. This makes me soooo angry.
posted by j_curiouser at 11:58 PM on September 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


We're pretty organic-homemade-ish, but coming up with lunch every day is a brain-taxing hassle, and honestly the school lunch guidelines are more strict about vegetables than I am!

Obviously there is a huge cultural divide happening. For my entire school career my lunch was an apple, a pair of sandwiches (usually vegemite) and *maybe* a small packet of crisps. A few handfuls of times there was Friday fish and chips for a treat.

Even the cafeterias of my high school years (possibly similar to nonspecialist's were largely about snack foods and crisps and ice creams, and maybe oven-cooked sausage rolls and party pies.

While I am sure there is a lot of science behind warm lunches (especially in colder climates), my head is still dancing with images of (for example) Jamie Oliver's crusade against Turkey Twizzlers and the like, and kids (not) eating vegetables at lunch.

Now, I am off to google Sunbutter.
posted by Mezentian at 12:19 AM on September 7, 2013


Why does it have to be thrown in the garbage? Wouldn't it just be set to the side for the next kid that wants that particular meal?

At least at elementary schools, the probability that the first kid emitted some horrible bodily substance onto the food approaches 1. Because kids that age are about 98% mucuses by weight.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:47 AM on September 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think the administrator is just hedging his bets that the parents of potentially affected kids are unlikely to care enough to be outraged (or organized enough to get together any kind of protest).

I'll admit I'm an horrible bill-payer, but I accept the fact that "don't pay your electricity bill= no electricity." Granted, even the power company generally gives you a grace period, which I think would definitely be in order here. But for some people, there's just nothing like coming home to a dark house to make you realize it's time to get shit together.

Might I suggest the school incorporate some kind of auto-pay feature, for those who have the money, but not the organizational wherewithall? It's saved my bacon plenty of times.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:37 AM on September 7, 2013


My mother was a guidance counselor in an elementary school with a very high rate of children in the free/reduced lunch programs. If a reduced-lunch kid didn't have enough money, cafeteria cashiers would yank plates from the child's hands. Many of these children were only eating at school, so if they didn't have enough change, that was it for them. And yep, I believe they just threw out the uneaten lunch. Teachers and other school employees would often intervene and pay for these kids' lunches themselves.

Actually, I seem to recall a particularly insane argument, which arose between a teacher and a cashier. The cashier refused the teacher's offer to pay for a kid's lunch... because it was cheating! Because the kid didn't bring enough money himself, so no one else should be allowed to help him eat. He didn't deserve the food if he couldn't cough up the change himself.

You have to be a seriously horrible person to adopt that attitude toward a hungry little boy. It wasn't an official school policy, but it might as well have been. And it was destructive enough to occur in a single school, let alone as a school district policy.

I found out that it was against district policy and that the main lunch-lady was covering every kid in this situation herself! So I squared that away. The woman was probably making $8/hr or something ridiculously insufficient for this kind of generosity. What a saint she was.

When I was a kid, a cafeteria worker did this for me. She wouldn't accept my attempts to pay her back later, either. I didn't understand the implications until I was a lot older.
posted by Coatlicue at 3:04 AM on September 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


the district says that if a student goes through the lunch line and doesn't have enough money to pay for it, the lunch staff is instructed to throw the meal away

No no no!

Throw it away in front of the child. Only then can the child be confronted by the reality of its situation.
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 3:24 AM on September 7, 2013


If that was too expensive, would a cold bowl of cereal kill the school's budget? A granola bar? Jesus.

I dunno, giving the kids an entire Jesus each is probably overkill.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:27 AM on September 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't know, I guess what bemuses me is the idea that school has ever been intended to be anything but humiliating. Maybe it's the pernicious effects of the self-esteem movement.

What? "The situation is bad, therefore, it's alright to make it worse"? Even if you believe school is nothing but humiliating, why add one humiliation more; one that is inhumane and easily resolvable?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:39 PM on September 6 [+] [!]


That was actually sarcasm.

My generation was supposedly ruined by the self-esteem movement, what with teachers pampering our little feelings all the time. Before the self-esteem movement, I presume they would simply have beaten us to death and our characters would have been all the better for it.
posted by tel3path at 3:43 AM on September 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


I dunno, giving the kids an entire Jesus each is probably overkill.

they did that all the time in my catholic church when i was a kid and believe me, i was still hungry
posted by pyramid termite at 4:23 AM on September 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


Does anyone doubt the School -> Prison pipeline after all this? If this isn't training both the kids to take the shit, and the cashiers to dish the shit out, then what is it? FWIW, I think that the school lunch program should do what Boston just did. LUNCH FOR EVERYONE!
posted by mikelieman at 5:05 AM on September 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why does it have to be thrown in the garbage? Wouldn't it just be set to the side for the next kid that wants that particular meal?

At least at elementary schools, the probability that the first kid emitted some horrible bodily substance onto the food approaches 1. Because kids that age are about 98% mucuses by weight.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:47 AM on September 7 [3 favorites +] [!]


Eh, I remember that when I was that age, we never actually served or touched the food ourselves... You asked for what you wanted and the lunch lady would plate it up and hand directly to the cashier. It wasn't until middle school that you were served a tray of food and held on to it until you got to the end of the line to pay. No idea how Willingboro handles it though.

Sad story all around.
posted by lovelygirl at 6:00 AM on September 7, 2013


Did I miss when laws were changed about school lunches? This sound like every school I or my children went to.

At least in public school, things have changed a lot when I went to school. I also remember where you had to pay in cash, and if you didn't have enough money, you didn't get lunch. I think though this kind of thing was less obvious, because you could look in the money in your hand and calculate how much you could afford, and if you didn't have enough, you didn't get in the lunch line in the first place. I know I personally did this a lot as a kid.

I think part of the change is that there has been a move away from kids carrying money in public school - maybe because bullies who used to beat people up for their lunch money? Or maybe because it made it obvious who was on free lunch, because they didn't give any money in. Either way, the move is to the invisible "card", and kids and parents both honestly have no idea how much is on the card. Which is perhaps less shaming, but causes more mishaps like this, where the kid expects lunch every day because card and has no idea until they get to the end that the card doesn't have money on it.

It seems the situation could also be avoided by having the kids themselves carry these lunch cards, like credit cards, and having some sort of swipable machine like an atm reader for them to check the balance. They could also then nag the parents themselves, which would be much more effective.

When parents have low balance or negative balance on the cards, they fold the letters up and staple them so the kids can't read them. I'm not sure why that is.
posted by corb at 6:45 AM on September 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also I have some vague hazy memory of kids with free lunch being asked to go to the front of the line to all get checked together, but that might be incorrect, because that was a really, really long time ago.
posted by corb at 6:46 AM on September 7, 2013


> They could also then nag the parents themselves, which would be much more effective

The lunch ladies tell my kids when their balance is low and they come home and remind me (if they remember to). It's not 100% effective but it sort of works. The message is usually along the lines of "the lunch lady said I need to mumble mumble something mumble I'm going to go play outside bye," which prompts me to check their balance on the school's website.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:22 AM on September 7, 2013


No aspect of the education system should cost anything outside of taxes. It should be a diehard tenant of the social contract that we educate and feed each other. It sickens me to see this type of behavior, especially when these same assholes are perfectly willing to spend trillions to send these same kids to die overseas.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:23 AM on September 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


Quebec runs a subsidized day care program. It pays back 1.4x what it costs through increased tax revenue due to increased parent working hours.

I am certain that school breakfast/lunch programs pay back multiples, through increased student performance leading to increased employment and reduced costs of crime.

The people deciding to not feed children are fiscally irresponsible and should not be allowed to make public policy decisions.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:39 AM on September 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


My kid is on one of the "card" systems, and the way it works is that I get email when the balance is low so that I can top it up. There's also the option to have it auto-renew, but that doesn't work for my specific credit card for some reason. What gets me into trouble is that the payment system has you put in your CC# and expiry and all that and hit submit, just like any other system, and then it redirects to another page which I assume -- every time -- is the receipt so I tab away from it. But it's actually a CONFIRMATION page, where you have to say "yes OK I wanted to do that." and until you hit "OK" the money actually doesn't go on. The one time my kid actually went negative in her balance, they called me up to get a credit card number over the phone after two days. BUT THEY FED HER.

I can only talk about this in little fits and starts, it makes me so angry to think about little kids going hungry at school. I should ask our school if this is a problem, and if it is, figure out some sort of shelf-stable abomination I can donate en masse so that they'll have something to give the kids, because Jesus H Christ this is not OK.
posted by KathrynT at 9:57 AM on September 7, 2013


At the risk of sounding like some sort of right-wing crazy person, someone has to hold parents to account for very, very basic things like either paying for lunch or applying for the free lunch program.

At the risk of sounding like a left wing crazy person: TAX THE FUCKING RICH AND PAY FOR THE FUCKING LUNCHES!
posted by Trochanter at 10:23 AM on September 7, 2013 [15 favorites]


At my elementary school, if you forgot your lunch (or bullies took it or your lunch money from you), you'd just get a bland PB&J on white bread, an apple and a carton of milk. So, like, no pizza or whatever the rich kids got, but still, not going hungry.
posted by klangklangston at 10:36 AM on September 7, 2013


At the risk of sounding like a left wing crazy person: TAX THE FUCKING RICH AND PAY FOR THE FUCKING LUNCHES!

I just did the math for this! My school district has 20,000 students, and a total population of about 122,700 people. Doing some quick and dirty math, we can assume that there are about 100,000 adults in my school district (122,700 people - 20,000 students - 2700 babies and children not old enough for school). This may be off, but it's close enough for my purposes.

School lunch is $2.75 for elementary school students and $3 for secondary school students. Let's just take the higher number, it makes everything easier. There are 180 days of school. This means that every child is spending $720 ($3 * 180) for school lunch every year. Multiplied by 20,000 students, that leads to a gulp-inducing $14.4 million dollars spent on school lunch every year. However, when you divide that by 100,000 adults, you get $144 per year -- $12 per month per adult.

Now, this is a very heterogeneous district, economically. There are definitely adults living in this school district for whom $12 per month would be difficult. However, school districts are paid for by property taxes. According to the last census, there were 46,895 housing units in this school district. Divided equally, that makes $307.06 per housing unit per year. That would represent about a 6% hike in property taxes, which I would pay in a goddamn heartbeat if it meant for sure that no child in my district ever went hungry again.

(totally possible my math is screwed up, this is on my first cup of tea of the morning)
posted by KathrynT at 11:04 AM on September 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


That's a really helpful way of breaking it down, KathrynT.

That's actually one reason I wish we had the option to pay taxes (or even extra taxes) towards a specific goal - because you would quite obviously cheerfully do that, but maybe Mr. McGregor down the street doesn't want to. Instead of having nobody do it, it'd be great if you still could.

Sidenote: do PTAs work differently in other states? Here they raise money and sometimes use it to cover expenses in the schools not covered by the government. Something like this seems like a great PTA project.
posted by corb at 11:09 AM on September 7, 2013


corb: " That's actually one reason I wish we had the option to pay taxes (or even extra taxes) towards a specific goal - because you would quite obviously cheerfully do that, but maybe Mr. McGregor down the street doesn't want to. Instead of having nobody do it, it'd be great if you still could."

This is an obvious collective action problem. Your proposed solution would not work in practice.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:35 AM on September 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


EndsOfInvention: " If that was too expensive, would a cold bowl of cereal kill the school's budget? A granola bar? Jesus.

I dunno, giving the kids an entire Jesus each is probably overkill.
"

Because, you know, childhood obesity. And Jesi are not gluten free either.
posted by Samizdata at 11:51 AM on September 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


This makes me so sad. I'd be willing to pay all the taxes they need to insure this never happens. Hell, I'd be willing to even pay extra every time I filled up my sons milk account to help out other children who don't have the money. I may not know the kid personally that my money would be helping, but I'm a firm believer that it takes a village to raise a child.
posted by Sweetmag at 12:26 PM on September 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Jesus wept. This is the same stripe of society that yelled "Let him die" during the GOP debates when candidates were asked about an uninsured person with medical bills. The "I've got mine, and fuck you" mentality is so contrary to basic social compacts, it makes my head explode.

My son is in all-day kindergarten. Last week one day I forgot to pack a snack for him (but he did have hot lunch paid for.) The snack supervisor felt so sorry for him sitting there with no snack she gave him hers. And I was so, so grateful. I cannot even imagine taking food from a hungry child and throwing it away. Anyone who thinks that is acceptable should be disqualified from having anything to do with people, much less children.
posted by ambrosia at 12:59 PM on September 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


School lunch is $2.75 for elementary school students and $3 for secondary school students.

Keeping in mind that the price is lower when everyone is covered, because of bulk purchasing; and keeping in mind that your figures include a 50%+ markup for profit; and keeping in mind opportunities to further reduce prices by using school kitchens, hospital kitchens, and corporate foodstuff sponsorships.

In reality, a good-quality lunch can probably be provided for under $2 per head.

I think it would pay off ten-fold in reduced long-term costs of poverty. Lower healthcare bills, higher academic performance, lower crime rates, lower prison costs, increased productivity, etcetera.

Only a moron can think cutting lunch programs saves money. Only a complete fuckwitted right-wing moron. But I repeat myself.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:14 PM on September 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


> Something like this seems like a great PTA project

Paying for lunch would be a great PTA project? I disagree. It would be a great government project, though.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:08 PM on September 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


As somebody said in another thread: How about we pay for the schools with taxes, and the MILITARY can hold a bake sale?
posted by Trochanter at 3:42 PM on September 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


In fact, I remember teachers telling kids that even if they know that they're not going to be eating school lunch but think that they would be applicable for free/reduced, to have the form filled out. Because next year, some poor kid whose parents aren't making them lunch will need the paltry sum allotted last year.

Younger Monster is a Senior this year, and once again, in the pile of paperwork we are required to fill out every year since Elder Monster entered school in 1997, there was the free/reduced lunch application, with a note from the Superintendent BEGGING every household to fill it out, even if you knew for certain that you would not qualify, for exactly that reason.

Our district will not let kids go hungry, regardless. If you forget your lunch money or your account has run dry, you get PB&J on whole wheat, a piece of fruit, and a carton of milk. Your folks get a note telling them so.
posted by MissySedai at 4:14 PM on September 7, 2013


Kind of an aside, but when I was a kid our school pb and j came packaged with a slice of American cheese. The cheese wasnt in the sandwich, just wrapped along with it. We were always like wtf are we supposed to do with this cheese. Someone said once they thought it was because it helped make the meal more nutritionally complete to meet some state guidelines...at any case, it grossed everyone right out.
posted by sweetkid at 7:05 PM on September 7, 2013


MissySedai: I don't understand. I know we wouldn't qualify, so I never fill out the form. How would my applying help the school?
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:26 PM on September 7, 2013


I've been feeling pretty sick and angry about the federal election results here in Australia so this morning I was like "Hey maybe something really inspiring has happened in New Jersey, I'll check Metafilter." Jesus.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:28 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


corb: "I think part of the change is that there has been a move away from kids carrying money in public school - maybe because bullies who used to beat people up for their lunch money? "

Kids lose things like WHOA and money is germy like WHOA. Cards disinfect and are much easier to replace. Also scanning is faster than counting money and making change. Also less chance of theft. I mean, basically all the reasons people in general have moved to credit/debit cards and away from cash. When I was in elementary school 25 years ago, classroom teachers handed all the milk-receiving students a poker chip as we got in line to go to the lunchroom, because they were easy to clean en masse and meant students didn't have to keep track of money or cards or slips of paper or anything.

It's even better, though, if you're just handing every student a lunch and don't have to keep track of anything but COUNTING them.

(I have a kid in pre-K and really important messages they write on sticky labels and stick to the child's shirt so the parent can't miss it. It makes me laugh, I love it. They also put big tags on them on the bus with their address so they don't get misdirected in shipping. Four year olds are SO unreliable!)

KathrynT: "I just did the math for this! ... Divided equally, that makes $307.06 per housing unit per year. That would represent about a 6% hike in property taxes, which I would pay in a goddamn heartbeat if it meant for sure that no child in my district ever went hungry again."

And not even that, because the federal government reimburses much of the cost of meals for low-income students. The cost to the local district (i.e., what would be charged to your property taxes) is a fraction of the "real" cost of the program. (Of course it is all tax money in the end, but taxes have varying degrees of impact and progressiveness.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:05 PM on September 8, 2013


MissySedai: I don't understand. I know we wouldn't qualify, so I never fill out the form. How would my applying help the school?

The idea is to turn that paperwork into just another thing everyone fills out at the beginning of the school year. Some families who would qualify often don't try to, because they're embarrassed.

By making the paperwork just something everyone fills out, the schools have managed to get people qualified who otherwise wouldn't have applied, and if they choose not to use it, that's fine, too. It still means the funding is there for those that do use the program.
posted by MissySedai at 9:34 AM on September 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, I see. Nobody would know we were applying, as far as I know. The paperwork comes home in a stack with all the other forms (PTA, school photos, etc) and so I suppose someone in the office would see it, and I guess if someone was really paying attention they can see if my kids hand in pink forms along with the blue, yellow, white, and green ones, but I don't think it'd make a difference.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:49 AM on September 9, 2013


You know, with the 'pervasive data collection' we are immersed in, it's boggling that we have to fill out forms for ANYTHING. Based on our employer's and our tax filings, they know our income already. But I would suggest that if we just made sure no-one was hungry at lunchtime, and did away with the bureaucratic bullshit, we'd end up saving money.
posted by mikelieman at 4:36 AM on September 10, 2013


Hmm...
Willingboro superintendent given vote of no confidence by education association (June 27, 2012)

WILLINGBORO — The Willingboro Education Association has taken a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Ronald Taylor, and the school board has transferred numerous staff members despite public pleas against the move.

The association, which represents about 600 teachers and other staff, voted overwhelmingly earlier this month. President Vicki Benedict told the school board at Monday’s lengthy meeting that the association does not believe Taylor is doing a good job of leading the district. She read a list of union grievances, including his failure to improve employee morale and his acting in an “unprofessional manner” on occasion.

Benedict asked the board take action, but board President Dennis Tunstall expressed support for Taylor, who just completed his first full school year, and his efforts to “turn the tides” in the district.

“For too long, this district has operated on a status-quo basis,” Tunstall said. “We are confident Dr. Taylor is the right person to lead this district.”

Board member Rebecca Perrone was not as supportive.

“I don’t have much confidence in the superintendent,” Perrone said.

She called Taylor “unprofessional” and questioned his hiring of “three friends” as assistant superintendents at a total cost of about $400,000 in salaries.

“They are all his buddies,” Perrone said, claiming one of them is “incompetent.”

After being gaveled down and warned by board Solicitor William Donio of Cooper Levenson that she was making “strong, inappropriate comments,” Perrone continued to question if the district is paying too much for its assistant superintendents.
Also, from 2011: Willingboro school board hires superintendent "Under the contract, which expires June 31, 2014, Taylor will receive an annual salary of $167,500 through June 30, 2012, that will be paid on a pro-rated basis for the rest of the school year."

Fuck this guy.
posted by gern at 1:22 PM on September 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


One reason schools ask parents to fill out the form so that every child who qualifies for F/R lunch is identified is because those percentages drive how other federal program funds from NCLB and such can be used. The higher the percentage, the more flexibility you have, to a degree.
posted by tamitang at 8:10 PM on September 10, 2013


Well, for anyone who's still reading, I found out what our school district does with kids who forget lunch money. They send them home with a sticker (which some obstreporous kids take off). If that doesn't work, mom and dad get an email.

Which is awesome, because if my kindergartner had his lunch thrown away in front of him the first time he tried to buy, I'd be in for 12 years of jelly sandwiches. And his refusal to eat would increase. Hello less than 1st percentile in weight!
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 4:53 PM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


PS - we didn't forget lunch money. The online payment system had a glitch. But it could easily have been scatterbrained-ness.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 4:56 PM on September 11, 2013


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