School Lunch: Remember When “Hungry for Knowledge” Used to Be A Metaphor?

Michael Siegel

Michael Siegel is an astronomer living in Pennsylvania. He is on Twitter, blogs at his own site, and has written a novel.

Related Post Roulette

104 Responses

  1. A question about your footnote: I realize you haven’t found the article yet, but do you recall if the person who administered that program also did other things, or was that their only job? Also, were they working for one school, or an entire school district? The answer might affect how much is “wasted” on administration. And even a “free” program will have to be administered somehow. Someone needs to order the food, repair the kitchen supplies, and make sure the workers get paid.

    My skepticism aside, I’m cautiously in favor of your idea. My understanding is that school meals are generally operated at a loss anyway, so why not operate at a slightly higher loss and be fairer? It’s also probably the right thing to do.Report

    • That’s why I’m trying to find the article. My memory is that either they did other things as well or that they did this for multiple schools. As you rightly note, that would change the context a bit. However, it’s mainly one of degree. Administering this program — complete with notifications to wayward parents and enforcement — occupies a significantly non-zero portion of school resources.Report

    • PD Shaw in reply to gabriel conroy says:

      I think in our school district, each school has one or more administrators that handles fee-collection and paperwork. (Granted, the schools moved towards universal free lunches as I discuss below, but there are still lab, sports, testing fees and some extracurricular items that are being processed) At some point, an unpaid bill gets sent to a private bill-collector. My sense is that when a final accounting is tallied during the summer break at the district offices, the collections are sent the following fall. The debt-collector my district uses traditionally charges 50% of whatever is collected, though may have a special deal.Report

    • Anthony Jameson-Mitchell in reply to gabriel conroy says:

      Head person who runs director of food makes $130 k average workers make $16 an hour just sad. They people get food stamps and free lunches. Parents need to be responsible. How may non american kids flood free meal policy. A ton. Principles make $130k a year just way to much. Lunches in vancouver wa $2 .50 thats cheapReport

  2. DensityDuck says:

    “The logic…[goes:] if we just let lunch debt accumulate, it will never be paid off.”

    which…is what happened? and happened again after they had a Lunch Debt Jubilee? so they’re…not wrong to suggest that if you don’t enforce the lunch-cost policy then there are people who just won’t pay for lunch?

    And yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah I get it, there’s all sorts of reasons why a family might not pay into the lunch account, there are all kinds of ways this could be done better, we could even make it all-free-all-day if we’re prepared for every school lunch to be “vegan chicken fingers and vitamin-enriched french fries plus a box of milk”, but it’s not wrong to say “if you let people go into debt then there will be people who get in debt and stay in debt”.Report

  3. DensityDuck says:

    That said, I really get the sense that most line staff probably let you slide if the number came up “overdue”, and that the story about “threw trayed lunch in the trash” was someone’s personal work-to-rule protest. Like, it was odd enough to be put on video and talked about, which suggests that someone had got yelled about about Not Following The Rules in some other context and was like “okay, fuck it, imma follow the fuckin’ rules then, lunch in the trash, fuck all y’all fuckers”.Report

  4. JoeSal says:

    “The only alternative is anarchy, where people pay if they feel like it.”
    FTR this isn’t anarchy, it’s the mixed economy model.Report

  5. Saul Degraw says:

    Here is the thing about these stories that I don’t seem to understand, they always provoke outrage when they get into the media. Another story from this year involved a working-class PA school district where the admin sent out letters to parents with unpaid school lunch debt. The letter threatened to get social services/child protective services involved unless the debt was paid. The letter caused a huge outcry including among social services in the county because they were not consulted on the matter. People offered to pay for the debt but the school district said no until more public outrage shamed them to say yes.

    So these stories always encounter outrage and never end well for the school district but still happen none the less? Why is that? Shouldn’t a person of average intelligence be able to figure out the negative publicity?

    The only think I can think of is that it is another sign of the myriad of ways that Calvinism runs deeply in this country and primarily punishes people for having small or minor debts. This is meant to be punishment for being poor. Another example is the crackdown on fare-jumpers on public transit (which also gets pushback but not as successfully). The amount to prosecute the crime is much more than the amount of a fare but there is a principal at stake that no one wants to give up. Meanwhile, really rich people and organizations can get into huge debt with impunity.Report

    • Oh, God, I’d forgotten about that one.Report

    • InMD in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      It’s because the people running the programs are low level local bureaucrats. Obviously someone needs to do the job but it isn’t exactly the highest calling in life. They probably have their own funding problems to deal with and not a lot of perspective on the possibility of going viral. From a certain vantage point I think they themselves are also victims of a bad system.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to InMD says:

        Perhaps but some of them make decent incomes even great incomes for their school districts relatively compared to the population as a whole. But my mother (a teacher and education administrator) always noted the absurdity and cruelty of many school bureaucrats.Report

        • InMD in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          I would not be surprised if there is a ‘little people with a little power’ aspect to it. To the extent that’s what’s going on those individuals should be ashamed of themselves.

          I suspect mostly what we’re seeing is people on the ground trying to allocate limited resources to mitigate a problem outside of their control in a way that is consistent with (often arbitrary) rules and that won’t get them fired. Like people shouldn’t be assholes and maybe there’s some sucking at the public teet but I don’t really envy the schools in this either. They don’t set the tax rates or allocate how much money they have to work with for these programs but then are the face of it when kids go hungry or someone snaps or some other system failure hits the headlines.Report

    • fillyjonk in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      That story totally had me shaking my head. But then again: when a colleague of mine with a kid was asking people if they were interested in buying five pound tubs of cookie dough (????) to “support the schools” and I asked if it was possible for me to just DONATE money to support the schools (I do not need and cannot use five pounds of cookie dough; I live alone and am already too heavy), I was told no, there is no mechanism for that.


      – Turn your kids into little Glengarry Glenn Rosses (if it’s still like it was when I was a kid – I was a shy kid with no “connections” and I sold NOTHING, and other kids were getting “prizes)

      – Enrich some third party (I’m sure the cookie dough/popcorn/wrapping paper companies get a nice cut)

      – Make more work for everyone involved (I COULD have bought the damn cookie dough and donated it somewhere, but then I would need to figure out where to donate it and get it there. So I just said no)

      – Cause people to burn political capital with co-workers (the reason I never sold anything? My dad was a uni department chair and felt it would be coercive for him to bring in a “hey buy stuff for my kid’s school” form, and on my street every other kid hit up all the neighbors first)

      – make it hard on the shy kids – we were pushed to go out and sell. (I quit Girl Scouts when all the cookie madness started. I might have stayed in had it not been for that)

      It’s just a big dumb mess. I suppose there’s some RULE somewhere about why local adults can’t just donate money to the school or something but it’s a stupid rule. (I already pay property taxes, though in my town, they are not high. Then again, the schools HAVE got some items – new buses, a sports center – voted in as sales-tax things, and we pay about 9%, and on groceries as well as non-food items. And there’s a big PR campaign about “spend your money here and not in Texas where they don’t tax groceries because we need the sales tax money and you’re a Bad Citizen if you drive across the river for your food”)

      But yes, it’s one of those deeply stupid things and I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that the school-lunch-debt story here was the case of bureaucrats being bureaucrats and it’s all a sausage-waving contest of sorts.Report

      • OMG, don’t get me started on the cookie dough thing. We did that for years and I hated it. A few years ago, they said they would abandon cookie dough in favor of everything donating to a fun run. The PTO ERUPTED in cheers. I hope we never go back.

        ” (I’m sure the cookie dough/popcorn/wrapping paper companies get a nice cut)”

        A few years ago, I figured that the cookie dough companies aren’t contributing anything. Their cut of the sales is the same as the retail price. The money that goes to the school is added on top of that. Total scam.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to fillyjonk says:

        A colleague of mine (another lawyer) did the cookie dough and snack thing for her kid’s class in the office recently. She just put the form in the office kitchen. I bought some just to help out but we made the cookies in the toaster oven at work. Other people bought snacks for the office.

        My girlfriend tells me that in her much larger organization, people are shameless about using the company slack channel to sell these things or girl scout cookies.

        As far as I know there isn’t a rule. In California, school funding for a pupil is equal IIRC. What rich school districts do is ask for a donation per a student a year. The donation depends on the wealth of the area. One town asks for a 500 dollar donation, the other more affluent towns ask for 1500-2000 dollars. These numbers are a few years old. Donations are voluntary but of course everyone knows.

        Regardless, I think it comes from a deep-seated Calvinist-Protestant morality about paying your own way.Report

        • fillyjonk in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          People do tend to be shameless about “buy my kids’ stuff” but my dad had a lot of scruples and he felt it would be unfair for him to even bring in the form seeing as he was on some level “the boss.” I think also he low-level disapproved of the school doing that.

          I have never heard of districts asking for donations; that is not a thing here, but then we are generally pretty low-SES and so…it would probably be uncomfortable to ask. (And I suppose one could make the argument that as a childless adult, I am, in a way, donating, as my property tax and sales tax go to schools in which I will never have a kid…)Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          I think it comes from a deep-seated Calvinist-Protestant morality about paying your own way.

          Way older than that. Punishing freeloading is a basic instinct in humanity and one of the core reasons we can build large scale societies.Report

      • atomickristin in reply to fillyjonk says:

        I HATED selling stuff, it was the absolute worst most punitive thing for shy kids ever. I learned nothing from it, and the kids who won were always the same 5 kids, all of them super popular and rich, whose parents basically worked someplace where they could do the selling for them.

        Maybe it was supposed to teach us the world isn’t fair, but I already learned that other places at school.

        I usually ended up eating all my candy bars and then having to buy them myself out of my babysitting money.Report

        • That’s both horrible and something I can totally identify with. 🙁Report

        • Well, it did teach me I wanted to avoid anything involving sales like it was radioactive.

          I very much had the same experience: the rich/popular/connected kids sold a crapton of the crap, won the prizes, got adulation. Ironically, these were kids who probably already had a nicer bike than the ones they won from the company. (Even as a kid, I wondered: how much money is the school ACTUALLY getting if there are all these fancy prizes and all this advertising)

          It is one of the many dysfunctional and stupid things schools do, but maybe it is a prepare us for adulthood thing? At least I learned that I didn’t want anything to do with selling crap to people?Report

      • Dark Matter in reply to fillyjonk says:

        I asked if it was possible for me to just DONATE money to support the schools… I was told no, there is no mechanism for that.

        That happened to me. You talked to the wrong person, how to do this isn’t advertised, talk to the Principal’s office.

        Principals LOVE this money because it’s a part of the budget they can control while most of “their” money is spoken for. Even a small donation is a good way to bring you and your kid to the positive attention to the powers-that-be and I’ve done exactly this for exactly that reason.

        It makes your life easier when you’re breaking the rules by asking to not get “this” class, or to get “that” class.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I think the logic of going or not going after fare jumpers is slightly different than school lunches. With fare jumpers, it is part of a bigger battle on whether people should have to behave with polite upper middle class norms when riding transit. The people who believe in going after fare jumpers is part of getting people to behave properly on transit and make it more pleasant than everybody. The pro-fare jumper side tends to come from the people that see public transportation as more of a social justice issue than a transportation service. So it’s about going against enforced polite behavior on transit too.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      …really rich people and organizations can get into huge debt with impunity

      Not just that, they can also usually structure that debt such that they can write it all off on their taxes, or declare bankruptcy and have the courts help restructure it with little to no impact (relative to what a private person would experience).Report

    • Dark Matter in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Meanwhile, really rich people and organizations can get into huge debt with impunity.

      Debt is a financing tool at that level, not a charity. If the bank didn’t think they’ll get their money back eventually they wouldn’t have given me a house loan.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The fare jumping thing frequently isn’t about the actual costs to the transit system.

      Translink, the Vancouver BC transit authority, is faced with a theoretical revenue loss of $6 million dollar a year to fare jumping. I say theoretical because if they enforce the fares more vigorously they will not get $6 million more in fare revenues – the currently evaded fares will turn into one of
      – still evaded fares (people willing to work harder to evade fare)
      – foregone transit trips (people who can’t afford fare)
      – paid fares

      Anyway, they’re addressing this $6 million / year “revenue loss” by installing a $110 million turnstile system with an expected $10 million / year operating cost.Report

  6. Chip Daniels says:

    I recall hearing an interview with a aging leftist who talked about the origin of school lunch programs in the 1950s and how a lot of the justification was traced to the high number of military recruits from Appalachia who were underweight.
    Her point was that in the Cold War Era you could get any program you wanted so long as it had some fig leaf of national security rationale.

    We are the same way today. I wager that that school has some expensive form of security theater which costs as much as the lunches.

    If someone was clever enough to find a way to link lunches with fighting terrorism or school shootings, “Freedom Meals” would be mandatory.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I wonder how much of the politics has changed though and now people will say no to school lunch because it helps “those people…” instead of just their people. Since both of us think that Trumpism is an expression of white-nationalist, herrenvolk Democracy, I would bet it would be high.

      John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers died earlier this year. He was a Jewish kid from New York with an Ivy-league education and he dedicated his life to preserving folk music from Appalachia. I once remarked that I found this very strange and some people leaped to his defense. One of the defenses was that in the late 1950s and early 60s is that you would have been laughed at if you predicted a wildly successful political movement that appealed to every resentment of the Appalachians. Yet here we are.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I’ve only recently become aware of how much of the New Deal was crafted to make sure that its benefits were directed to the correct people and not Those People, as part of the sausage making to get the Dixiecrats on board.

        I’ve spoken to people from the WWII generation who spoke casually of receiving all manner of government benefits in the postwar years, and it was clear that they didn’t make any distinction between “military” benefits like the GI Bill and General welfare types of benefits.

        I think it was only in the 1960s Great Society years that government aid became associated with ethnic minorities.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      School lunches started in the United Kingdom around the time of the Boer War for the same reason. They noticed that a lot of the working class volunteers were not military material. About half of them weren’t. So they decided to use schools as a way to feed kids.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I wager that that school has some expensive form of security theater which costs as much as the lunches.

      And surely having kids who aren’t hangry all day would do more to reduce violence than whatever that security theatre is.Report

  7. JoeSal says:

    “I’d honestly rather pay a small increase in my property taxes than see any more kids go through this ritual humiliation. It’s not worth it.”

    Do you have any idea how much debt your average home owner carries in your community?Report

  8. JoeSal says:

    [Overton Window marker:
    Making a literal argument for Free Lunches]Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to JoeSal says:

      Free lunches were a staple feature of the Good Old Days when I was a kid.

      I’m not fond of these new radical ideas like making kids pay for them.

      Before we embark on such a course of social engineering as this, shouldn’t we first understand why this program existed, and grasp the importance of established tradition and what it can teach us?

      PS. Get off my lawn.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to JoeSal says:

      Children got to learn the lessons of homesteadism early I guess. Everybody sees to their own provision no matter how young or disadvantaged.Report

      • JoeSal in reply to LeeEsq says:

        There used to be this norm that you fed your own children, and if the children were adults they provided for themselves.

        But keep calm and Postmodern on brother.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to JoeSal says:

          The idea of school lunches is over a century old right now. Nearly everybody with half a brain can figure out that having kids learn on an empty stomach is a bad idea. Some kids come from circumstances where parents could provide adequate lunches or any lunch for a variety of reasons ranging from poverty to neglect to abuse. So the school/community needs to step in.

          Your stance on the issue is entirely too harsh. You are trolling at best or being morally monstrous. Rather than allowing individuals to come together to mitigate against some natural harshness, you would have everybody be in a state of blood red nature, tooth, nail, and claw.Report

          • JoeSal in reply to LeeEsq says:

            you are probably correct in that I am being a bit callous here, but it isn’t about trolling or being morally monstrous.

            I posted this comment the other day:
            Also this isn’t specific to this point only. What we typically see from particular participants here is the sentiment of ‘good’ without looking at the results ahead.

            a.)free housing
            b.)free college
            c.)free healthcare
            d.)free basic income
            e.)free global policing

            There just is no real math that shows a+b+c+d+e+……..will ever work out or be sustainable.

            It’s just this magic that the money truck will show up every time it is needed and everything is cool.

            The question of Murc’s Law has to do with Turkeys Dressing Law:
            Agency of those wishing to distribute “free stuffing” must show their work.


            The answer I received was “Taxes!”.

            So we never really talk about the agency of all the people being taxed. The underpinning social objectivity is unresolved. Sure for those who make good wages the answer is “of course, increase my taxes!” but those folks drag everyone else along for the ride.

            So in addition to that list above I am now adding
            f.) free Lunches

            and no one will show the math that this stuff works out, and I find that the most morally monstrous position of all, is to get people hooked on all this free stuff and then it comes to a very abrupt end as it has done for every nation that has attempted this since 1917.

            Yall can repackage this stuff, sell with the feelz and buckets of emotion, but it remains the same thing.

            The fact that we have surplus goods and services is because we avoided this type of thinking for much longer than other nations.

            I actually hope yall get exactly what you are asking for, because the only teacher in a decadent society is living through its results.

            I mean our economists could have done a microphone drop at the amounts of Food, Fuel and Electricity created in this country decades ago, the fact that there is never ending yammering about free stuff……. there is a solution for that.Report

  9. Merrie Soltis says:

    As a conservative, I have to agree with you here. There will always be kids who can afford lunch or will choose to bring their own. But if it’s a choice between letting a few who aren’t needy slide and making those who are go hungry and be humiliated in front of their friends, I’ll pay the extra property tax too. In fact, every time one of these stories comes up, there is an individual, company or charitable organization that steps forward to pay the bill. Maybe we should try outsourcing the school lunch program to a charitable organization first.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Merrie Soltis says:

      The problem is that we aren’t allowed to say “I am paying an extra fifty dollars on my taxes every year and it goes to the School Lunch Program”. Taxes don’t work that way without those focused initiatives they have in California that we’re all supposed to hate.Report

  10. CJColucci says:

    The problem is that we aren’t allowed to say “I am paying an extra fifty dollars on my taxes every year and it goes to the School Lunch Program”.

    Who is this “we,” and who is refusing to allow them to say what they please about where their taxes go?Report

  11. Pinky says:

    What’s a lunch debt? You give the kid money every day, and he pays for his lunch every day. It’s one of the few ways that a child learns responsibility about money. You’re not teaching him anything if you give him a tab. You’re teaching him the wrong lessons if you occasionally forgive the debt.Report

    • Michael Siegel in reply to Pinky says:

      Most schools these days do not allow you to pay in the line. The parents have to pay a service which then debits electronically.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Siegel says:

        I remember having to buy (or get, depending on if I had free lunch that year) lunch tickets every week. They had different colors tickets for full price, reduced price, and free.

        Poverty shaming has been going on for a long time, this is just the new way of doing it.Report

  12. PD Shaw says:

    Just another leftie piece demanding a free lunch.(*)

    I’m not sure Sanders has the right numbers. Starting about 5 years ago, the federal government began a community eligibility program that paid for free lunches for the entire school, if 40% of the students were already eligible for free or reduced lunch. My kids’ schools were in an earlier pilot program that started the first year or so of the Obama administration. They wanted to use the schools to better educate people about healthy food choices, and were concerned that the free lunch framework was hampered by a stigma that free lunches were not as good as other lunches.

    At the same time, more rigorous dietary standards made the lunches less tasty. My daughter stopped eating the school lunch pretty quickly and came home hungry every day. My son slowly stopped eating the school lunches, but he’s fine with the same turkey sandwich sack lunch every day. The lesson here is that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

    Here is a study:

    “Koedel looked at all the schools in Missouri that had adopted the community eligibility option during the first three years of the program, from 2014 to 2017, and found that it had the effect of raising the percentage of kids in the state who are getting free or reduced price lunch by only 2.3 percentage points — from 51.2 percent under the old system to 53.5 percent under the new system.”

    (*) /jokingReport

    • DensityDuck in reply to PD Shaw says:

      The lesson here is that there is no such thing as a free lunch.


    • Saul Degraw in reply to PD Shaw says:

      Was school lunch ever tasty?

      The thing for me is more that this seems like an extremely petty action and it punishes the most defenseless person in the entire chain. It punishes the kid. I guess you can say it is just enforcing “fairness” and the “law.” But it does so in a way that seems really cruel and burdensome.Report

      • greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Yes school lunch was very tasty. Back in high school there were several meals most of us wanted to eat because we all dug it. So yeah. I’m sure some school lunches are also not good. I’m also sure some of the dislike is due to adults not wanting little karen or hunter to not eat their very special lunch made at home.Report

      • PD Shaw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Yeah, there are limits to what one can expect with institutional food preparation, but my daughter ate the school lunch every day until the federal guidelines changed. Again, my suspicion based upon the write-ups in the new standards is “low salt” is kind of the thing that would make institutional food a lot worse with little benefit for kids.Report

      • fillyjonk in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I remember hamburgers where you could see the soybeans or whatever they stuck in for filler.

        I was a picky eater and always carried lunch from home – either a sandwich, or for a while, I had a “cold cup” (like a mini thermos) and I would take cottage cheese. (What? I liked cottage cheese).

        Also waiting in line for lunch was a deterrent; if you were close to the end of the line you often had to inhale your food before lunch period was over and they turfed you out to “go play” at recess. (There were other issues there, if you were an unpopular/not-very-athletic kid)Report

  13. Jaybird says:

    If you were idly wondering what the demographics of Cherry Hill are, they’re here. Local government appears to be Democratic.

    The demographics of Green, Ohio are here. The government appears to be Republican.

    The demographics of Richfield are here. The government appears to be Democratic (Hey, this is Ilhan Omar’s district!).

    No real patterns, really. I mostly get the vibe that this stuff is going on everywhere but it only gets covered by the media when it happens to overwhelmingly white communities.Report

  14. Aaron David says:

    Why are schools in the business of lunch? Shouldn’t their resources by used for, oh I don’t know, teaching?

    But I am sure any found money would be used as well as every gas tax has…Report

    • We decided long ago that we would not demand that every parent pack a lunch.Report

    • greginak in reply to Aaron David says:

      Because hungry kids don’t do well in school and lots of people have difficulty providing for their children. Meals mean kids learn better and it also gives them more incentive to get to school. Sort of a win win situation.Report

      • Aaron David in reply to greginak says:

        Yes, and homeless kids don’t do well in school, and kids fighting puberty don’t do well in school, and stupid kids don’t do well in school, and kids who have to walk there don’t do well in school, and kids who are gingers don’t do well in school, and kids who are blind don’t do well in school, and kids with the wrong prescription glasses don’t do well in school. and kids who died from net neutrality don’t do well in school, and kids who don’t [fill in the blank here] don’t do well in school…

        What social ill don’t you think we should try to solve with top-down over-bearing gov’t in the form of the prison-education complex? That might be quicker.Report

        • greginak in reply to Aaron David says:

          Gosh darn you got an impressive litany of catch phrases in that second para. In good intertoobz style it doesn’t have anything to do with what i said. Of course you hit par with not having any knowledge of educating kids but the base fact that hungry kids will do much worse shouldn’t be all that controversial. On the other hand knowing that kids in puberty often do great in school or who are blind do great with proper, government provided accommodations. Fun fact, i used to work a lot along side a program to help homeless kids succeed in school despite the problems of being homeless. It worked pretty well.

          Screeching about kids getting free meals in school so they don’t go hungry does seem like we are getting to that special time of the year when all those great old xmas movies come on. I always lied the Albert Finney xmas carrol movie fwiw.Report

          • Aaron David in reply to greginak says:

            Well, that didn’t answer my question.Report

            • greginak in reply to Aaron David says:

              Then ask a question. I didn’t suggest solving every social ill with a top down overbearing gov and something something prison IC. That is all conservo buzz words. I’m all for providing free meals for kids in school which isn’t any of those things.

              And really, kids being fed as opposed to hungry is not a far out idea when talking about how well they do. It’s not the litany of stuff you threw out.Report

              • Aaron David in reply to greginak says:

                So, again, what don’t you feel that he gov’t should provide via school? I gave examples far and wide (from glasses to stupidity but I can think of countless others.) Are they buzz-words? I don’t know and wouldn’t particularly care, as I feel free-lunch is also a buzz word.

                We have welfare programs that provide food such as WIC and SNAP, not to mention direct welfare payments, so why should we also go through the process of creating/enlarging yet another redundant bureaucracy, one that is even less responsive as per PD Shaw’s comment?Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Aaron David says:

                I don’t have a problem with the school lunch program. The reason its a popular welfare program is that it goes to the kids. My issue / sidetrack is that it should keep it simple. I think the schools can probably bend eating habits very marginally, and if they try too hard, they’ll defeat the primary purpose of feeding the children.Report

              • Aaron David in reply to PD Shaw says:

                When I was referring to your post, it was in relation to what the kids want/don’t want to eat. I had heard the same things you said from various other points, but as yours was in the thread…Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Aaron David says:

          Because feeding kids so they do well is extremely low hanging fruit for the mission of the school.Report

          • Aaron David in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            I think it may have started that way, but this is why we have school districts as opposed to national policy. PD Shaw gives a very good explanation of the base level failure of the program; kids don’t like top-down decisions on what to eat. Much of what we are getting is mission creep that simply expands one organization when there are others more equipped to do the job. And doesn’t alleviate the root problems. We see schools spend more and more money to little effect because they do not address these root problems of issues. But they are damn good at being cash cows for other cause celebre. Hence my comment about gas taxes.

            We already have welfare programs, section eight housing and myriad other artifacts from the war on poverty, which has failed miserably. Why we think one more being pushed through the Dept. of Edu. is beyond me.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Yeah I think I agree with this. There are a lot of schools where educational outcomes are poor and attempts to improve them are not particularly successful and it’s happening all over. (There was a huge thing about the SAT scores declining a while back. 2015 had a bunch of articles about it.)

            Since then, it looks like the SAT has changed how it is scored… which, at this point, strikes me as a red flag. (Changing how we measure things is a great way to mask decline, after all.)

            But you know what? If the kids get a belly full of food, that’s an achievable goal and something that we can accomplish on their behalf. I don’t know that we know how to teach math or English or even define what success would look like.

            But we can feed them. And there are too many who need feeding to pretend that that ain’t our problem.

            We’ve talked in the past about stuff like “what is the bare minimum we ought to expect a high school student to be able to do on graduation” and that was a really, really depressing conversation. But we can probably make sure that the kids get at least a couple of hot meals with meat in them.Report

            • JoeSal in reply to Jaybird says:

              They screwed up teaching, what makes you think they won’t screw up hot meals?

              (ETA- along the lines of what Oscar used to say, design for the people you have, not the people you wish you had)Report

              • Jaybird in reply to JoeSal says:

                There is a lot more fault-tolerance with hot meals and measurable outcomes are more immediate.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to Jaybird says:

                You do realize we are going from:
                “You had one job!!!!”
                “You had two jobs!!!!”Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

                If every plate has exactly three chicken fingers and exactly one scoop of french fries and every tray has one plate and one box of milk then Lunch Has Been Provided.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

                I am remembering the “what is the point of lower education” discussion.

                If the purpose of lower education in some parts of town is not “College Prep” but “Day Care”, we should just cowperson up and say “okay, the kids come in, they’ll get two squares and we’ll keep them from killing each other while you’re at work.”

                I can understand why people might say “but no! They should learn algebra and read Wuthering Heights!”

                Yeah, that’s the other school where they do that. The one that isn’t dedicated to Day Care.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Aaron David says:

      My question is, why should we have a national policy with regards to school lunches?Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Pinky says:

        Because kids might get stuck in districts or states with sucky policy decisions.Report

      • Michael Siegel in reply to Pinky says:

        Because some school districts are poor and require enormous amounts of federal assistance to function.Report

      • George Turner in reply to Pinky says:

        A national policy was important for turning all the edgy, rebellious youth into staunch Republicans, alt-righters, or pro-Trumpers, simply because Michelle Obama took away all the food they actually liked to eat. Many also noticed that her own kids ate at Sidewell Academy’s five-star cafeteria, which could cater state dinners for diplomats and foreign leaders without even changing the menu. That doubtless opened a lot of eyes for kids staring at the sparse pickings on a cafeteria tray, fare that a homeless person wouldn’t bother to dig out of a dumpster.

        For the youth, the situation was like having divorced parents with joint custody, where mom was a neurotic vegan who bounced from one Facebook dietary fad to the next and dad was a grill master on the competitive BBQ circuit. “Taking candy from a baby” isn’t supposed to be a political strategy, but Democrats went with it anyway, scoring a critical “own goal”.Report

      • PD Shaw in reply to Pinky says:

        Do we have a national policy with regard to school lunches? It looks like we have a welfare program with directed benefits to children in public schools. The government has also set standards that require the food to be healthy. If you take the King’s shilling, one can’t complain much about its condition. From my link posted elsewhere, it looks like approximately half of the people offered a free lunch, pass on it.Report

  15. Em Carpenter says:

    When I was a kid I got free lunch due to my parents’ poverty. I wanted to be “cold lunch”, but my mom wasn’t about to spend what little grocery budget we had on stuff for my lunch if I could get it for free.

    In my county, all elementary and middle school lunch is free (it has to do with the level of poverty in the county- if above a certain threshold of children live below the poverty line, everyone gets free lunch.) So my kids eat school lunch because its easier for me. But honestly, if it frees up needed funds I’d happily pay for their lunch, and sponsor lunch for another kid too.Report

  16. Oscar Gordon says:

    Speaking of public schools being abusive, Hanley linked to this one this morning on FB.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      I was going to do it. Either the Internet is helping us find these stories more or the many people are letting their authoritarian freak flag high.Report

      • JoeSal in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Note the authoritarian freak flag is waving within a public school institution of provisioning.

        That’s a point subtracted for the social provisioning team.Report

        • George Turner in reply to JoeSal says:

          Actually I think it’s a positive point. People are going to be less resistant to Democratic Socialism and tech monopolies if they get used to profound government and technocratic abuse at a young age. Schools are supposed to prepare kids for the future, and in this case, they certainly are. These youth will graduate fully ready for a life in Facebook Jail and Twitter Timeout, or kept in solitary in the county lockup until they achieve a neutral monthly carbon balance. What’s sad is that so many home-schooled and charter-schooled kids are being deprived of time in the soul-crushing government-run hot box, and the future is going to cold-cock them like a brick in the face.

          Yeah, I find the positive side in everything.

          Teachers: Doing things that parents aren’t allowed to because we’d send them to prison and put their children in foster care.Report

  17. JoeSal says:

    In the age of “Go Fund Me” why are there even posts like this? If something twangs your heart/wallet strings, there is a solution there that doesn’t drag everyone into the taxation machine.

    If the left wants to be unbridled, then just open up a fund and go for it.Report

  18. Your Momua says:

    God just forbid these parents and students went home and :::gasp::: budgeted their earnings and parlayed them into purchasing items in bulk to. Prepare lunches from home… No creativity anymore, these parents don’t have the desire my poor mom did, she made the best on the fly lunches and so do i… Fruit and vegetables in bulk goes along way…Report

  19. Mikkhi Kisht says:

    I’m going to skip the debate on whether lunch should be free or not, to what’s important to me. I’m pissed at the ‘if we just punish/humiliate the students hard enough in front of their classmates, their parents/guardians will cough up the dough’ mentality. School districts are missing their proper targets. It’s not the students fault.Report

  20. atomickristin says:

    Literally one of my biggest pet peeves. Same people who will happily fork over 10 billion to Halliburton their purse strings draw up tighter than Dick Cheney’s coronary arteries.

    Too many people from the top right on down approach governing with a punitive approach.Report

  21. Dark Matter says:

    Public schools provide a “free” education to students to that is worth, depending on your district, $10-20,000 per year (although, to be fair, retirees and administration eat up some of that). By what logic is adding a $4 lunch on top of that the birth of communism?

    My #3 girl (oldest still taking school lunches paid for by me) averages $5. There are 180 school days a year. That’s $900.

    So that’s a 5% to 10% increase in per pupil funding. That’s a lot of money.

    So… would this program be money well spent? How much of a need are we talking about? Don’t we already have programs which feed poor children in school?

    Children in households with incomes at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for free school meals. Children in households with incomes between 130 to 185 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for reduced-price school meals and can be charged no more than 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch.

    So by definition, everyone in this situation needs to have an income above 185% of the federal poverty level.

    I’d honestly rather pay a small increase in my property taxes than see any more kids go through this ritual humiliation. It’s not worth it.

    My #3 girl had a horrible min wage job this summer to teach her that she doesn’t want to work min wage. I did the same for her older sisters. Younger than #3 is too young. This is a great age to teach money is important and the alternative is unpleasant.

    The way to avoid fiscal incompete adults isn’t to hand out free money. The solution is to let people be rewarded or punished according to their behavior, and ideally that before adult habits are formed.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Dark Matter says:


      The punchline here?
      The audit itself cost 400 Million dollars, or 400 Million school lunches.

      But yeah, a single mom whose kid is given a free baloney sandwich is really a threat to the republic.Report

      • Dark Matter in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        But yeah, a single mom whose kid is given a free baloney sandwich is really a threat to the republic.

        Your single mom’s kid already gets a free or almost free sandwich.

        Given that, whose kids are we trying to help here? Mine? Taking my kids to task for buying inappropriate stuff (too much, too little, unhealthy, or whatever) is one of my jobs as parent. Ditto teaching them about money. That some parents do a poor job at this sort of thing because of misplaced priorities or culture or whatever is no reason to try to shield my kids from reality.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Dark Matter says:

          I wonder if we looked at the districts / states where these incidents happen and compared the income cutoff for free lunch to the fiscal reality of the families in the district, what would we find.

          That aside, visiting the penalty for parents mistakes directly to the kids is just wrong. Chances are that these kids will already be paying a penalty for having parents who are not fiscally responsible, we don’t need to compound that shame.Report

          • Dark Matter in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Chances are that these kids will already be paying a penalty for having parents who are not fiscally responsible, we don’t need to compound that shame.

            Showcasing that Uncle Sugar will step in if there are problems with bad fiscal behavior is a terrible life lesson to teach. It’s the opposite of what they should learn and what I try to teach my kids.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Dark Matter says:

              This assumes that the kids are even remotely aware of their parents bad fiscal behavior. These aren’t always high school kids getting shamed.

              That said, there are other ways for schools to get money from parents than to shame the kids directly. Go after the parents with both barrels if you want to, but don’t take it out on young kids.Report

  22. Rufus F. says:

    1st thought: There’s probably a “very good reason”, but never underestimate the pettiness of the mid level bureaucrat.
    2nd: Classicism really should be considered a cognitive disorder at this point.
    3rd: I feel for the poor teacher who has to wait for the black student to be beaten down by the school’s rent-a-cop and the poor student to be humiliated for being born to the wrong parents before starting the lecture on the virtues of living in a meritocratic society.Report

  23. Swami says:

    This entire conversation comes across as bizarre to me.

    If a student wants a lunch, they can pay for it.

    If the school wants to build a prepaid lunch program into its tuition, then they should be free to do so (which allows subsidized lunches as most tuitions are massively subsidized).

    If the school wants to develop a credit program for ala carte food, then it should be free to do so however it sees fit.

    If students or parents disagree with how the school handles it, they can voice their concerns or take their business elsewhere.

    If someone here wants to fund student lunches, feel free to do so. Please leave me out of it.Report