Funny how school lunches play out in different settings. Not so funny if you are the child who is denied a meal. Here are three ways schools have approached feeding children:
- A cafeteria worker at an elementary school in Salt Lake City, Utah threw away the lunches of 40 elementary school students after they were served, but not yet eaten. Apparently the children were behind on their payments. That’s one way to approach school nutrition programs - temptation followed by humiliation. For more details, check out this Time magazine article.
- In Vermont, the state legislature has stepped up and provided funding so that all children on free or reduced meal plans have free breakfast and free lunch. Martha Maksym, the United Way director in Burlington, described it this way: “Vermont is the first state in the nation to provide free school breakfast and lunch to any child who is eligible for free or reduced meals. State funds cover the co-pay for reduced.” The issues in this policy are that families have to sign up for free or reduced meals and the state has to provide some funds.
- Locally in Buncombe County schools, all children can have a free breakfast and the cost of lunch is based on income eligibility. Each school principal has a particular policy about how to handle situations when a student is not paid up for lunch, however, the ultimate policy is that all children are fed a lunch. So breakfast is covered which gets kids off to a good start. But lunches can still be tricky. Thankfully, these schools have agreed that no child should go without a lunch as well. There are difficulties covering the costs, but the system is committed to feeding its students.
It just doesn’t seem right that any child would be denied a meal at school.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if meals at school were easy to get? Much has been done here to incorporate fresh and local produce along with healthier meals. But we can’t forget about the access issues. There may be lots of reasons why they don’t have their lunch money – parents may not have the money but don’t want to sign up for free lunches; families forget in the rush of the morning to give their child lunch money; children lose the money or are bullied into giving it up….there are many different reasons. But, no lunch for the day? That’s harsh – especially when we expect kids to be on task, attentive and productive.
Do you know if children get turned away at your school? What is the policy there? What do you think should be done to ensure all students get a meal at the beginning and in the middle of their school day?