97 thoughts on “The Social Stigma of Getting Free Lunch

  1. I’m struck by how casually this article reinforces California stereotypes: Dr. Rajiv Bhatia is shocked, SHOCKED that the same behavior he experienced in that dirty hick red state Oklahoma is present in San Francisco, the Alabaster City on the Hill where Everything is Perfect.

    Note also that the student body president, a rich white student, singles out his hispanic and black acquaintances for his humanitarian concern.

    That being said, isn’t there an easier or cheaper solution than debit cards? What about tokens? Kids who qualify for assistance can have lunch tokens mailed to them, and kids who wish to pay for them can purchase them.

  2. Well, you wouldn’t want poor people to feel they’re just as good as the rest of us, would you? I’m strongly reminded of Jeanne Laskas’ post:

    I have to admit, this is partly a personal issue. I went through a period as kid when Christmas was ruined every year by the guy from the church (not our church, some other damn church) pulling up in a station wagon loaded with food boxes. My mother was too polite to turn him away.

    From her old blog, Body and Soul–Monday, December 23, 2002.

  3. California is facing massive education budget cuts. They’ll be lucky to save the school lunch program, much less fix it.

    The district my wife works at is facing cuts of $1 million per school next school year and rumors that a further million per school will have to go the next.

  4. That whole “separate lines” thing is especially appalling.

    The debit system they talk about (each student given a number s/he uses to charge to their account, with all students having access to all foods served) is what they use at my son’s school, and it works beautifully. It not only benefits the kids who receive free or subsidized lunch, but also the kids who can afford to pay full freight. It means they don’t lose their money, and keeps them from being messed up for by bullies looking for their own version of free lunch (which still happens some places, too).

  5. My daughter’s public school used numbers for student accounts. The student just gave the cashier his/her number. No separate lines, etc. I do think the lunch had to conform to some standards, though. At the elementary level this is easier than the senior high level where there are more choices and a student can just pay for a slice of pizza.

    @BigHank Every human being has the right to be treated with dignity.

  6. That is one of the saddest things I’ve ever read. How come it’s so obvious to an empathic person what would happen if their segregate federally funded lunch lines from paid-for lunch lines, but the Powers That Be can’t see it?

    Oh, yeah…never mind.

  7. The separate line system seems so nonsensical. I went to a school so chronically underfunded the roofs leaked for three years straight (causing so much water-damage that eventually that part of the school was abandoned), and even they didn’t run two lines: if you were getting school-food, which a lot of us did (it often tasted just as good as anything you could bring from home, and didn’t require the extra ten minutes in the morning to put your lunch together), you arrived at the school at the beginning of the month with your order-form. The only people who ever KNEW which kids were paying for them and which kids weren’t were the adults who processed the order forms.

    It wasn’t perfect – kids aren’t dumb, and we still suspected which families weren’t paying for theirs – but it was sure as hell better than making all of those kids line up separately and highlight themselves.

  8. I didn’t even know that any schools didn’t do do keypad method. That’s how it is was for me K-12. My high school has a regular lunch line, a pizza line, an ala carte line (usually leftovers from breakfast and yesterday’s lunch), and a salad bar line, all in the same cafeteria. You can get whatever you want from any of the lines and either charge it to your account or pay in cash.

  9. Interesting. I’m currently reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and on more than one occasion, there is something “free being given away to a poor child” and not one of them will step up and take the item even though they really, really want it because of the stigma of being poor, even though everyone knows that they are all poor.

  10. I like the way the very first commenter to this thread identified who really deserves to be vilified and abused: the guy who actually pointed the problem out. Because, you know, if you read Dr. Bhatia’s quoted remarks while chugging a fifth of 100-proof Old Resentment, he might possibly have been saying something implicitly critical of the civic culture of Oklahoma City.

    So it’s very important to punish the bastard who had the nerve to suggest someone might want to be compassionate to someone else. Otherwise, next thing you know, some of us might have to feel bad about ourselves for 5.79 seconds. And we can’t be having any of that.

  11. I went without lunch rather than tell the cashier I got free lunch during a brief, but very rough time, while I was in high school.

    My son’s middle school uses the debit card system (I love getting those notices that the kid’s been downing a la carte items and the card’s 18.00 in the hole) and I just asked him if he knows any kids who get free lunch (I know he does). He says he doesn’t think so because everybody just swipes their cards.

    I had no idea there are schools that put the free lunch kids in a separate line, and I find it horrific. It always amazes me how many people reach adulthood and forget the things that hurt as children.

  12. uh yeah, maybe they ought to get on that ‘giving everyone the same food choices’ thing. Giving some people access to higher-quality food while making other people eat out of the soup kitchen line is rather the definition of missing the ****ing point.

    We adopted a PIN system starting my second year of middle school, which seemed to work well enough for people that actually ate in the cafeteria. I could never remember mine, but then I always brought lunch from home.

  13. I know full well how difficult it can be to deal with the social stigma of being poor. My school only offered one menu for everyone with a account payment system where you simply provided your student ID number and while in principle, no one knew who paid and who was subsidized…in practice all the kids knew just where every one ranked. Granted I grew up in a rather small town where everyone pretty much knew everyone else.

    My wife also had some pretty terrible experiences at the hands of her social “betters”. Due to this we are almost neurotic about making sure our kids have the money to pay for lunch, even when we did qualify for free lunches. They get to choose their wardrobes (within reason) so they don’t appear to have been dressed from a yard sale, etc…

    At the same time we try to make the kids aware of the absurd lengths some people will go in order to maintain or increase their social status. Especially now that we are finally much better off financially, it is important that we don’t succumb to the shiny ourselves and set a bad example.

  14. San Francisco school officials are looking at ways to encourage more poor students to accept government-financed meals, including the possibility of introducing cashless cafeterias where all students are offered the same food choices and use debit cards or punch in codes on a keypad so that all students check out at the cashier in the same manner.

    This is what they do here in Georgia and it seems to work pretty well. The kids even get a selection of foods, they just are only allowed 1 main dish and 2 or 3 sides, plus milk. Reduced lunch and free lunch kids can’t buy chips and stuff, but those things cost extra for everyone. The kids are told by the cafeteria personal when their parents needs to put money into their accounts, and even that is done online. It’s worked pretty well. We still had girls who wouldn’t eat, but it was for totally other reasons. According to my youngest, though, the teachers keep an eye on the kids and try to make sure they eat at her school.

  15. The school district my son recently graduated from used a PIN system. He went to an elementary school where half the kids got free and reduced lunches. (I think the number is even higher now.) The PIN system not only reduced the stigma, but it meant that fewer kids had to bring money to school. Some parents would give their kids lunch money up-front for the week. How many do you think held on to it the entire week? If they didn’t spend it on shiny pencils at the school supply cart they lost it or it got stolen. The PIN system is a better deal all around.

  16. I interpreted the separate lines thing differently– I never ate school lunch, too picky, but we had a separate snack bar selling chips, milk, and the like. In the article, it says that ‘minimally nutritious’ food shouldn’t be served to free-lunch students– you don’t want a separate free lunch line to mean gruel and water. It streamlined everything, because then you had the people who got a hot lunch in the big long line (most people) and the people like me, who brought a lunch but still wanted milk and crackers along with it. Mostly, the hot lunch people didn’t go to the snack bar unless they wanted more milk or something.
    Our snack bar never had full meals, though. That’s what the lunch line is for.

    My elementary and middle schools had lunch tickets. No debit cards, but at the beginning of the week, you told your teacher which days you’d be eating hot lunch, and she or he got an envelope with a bunch of laminated, bent tickets every morning. Much lower-tech than debit cards, but it still separates snack bar people from hot lunch people.

  17. The thing that made me wonder is why is a school cafeteria selling food with questionable nutritional value? Thus creating the need for a seperate line. All of the food served by a school should be healthy.
    I also think there has to be a cheaper way to camouflage who pays and who is subsidized. The first idea that pops to mind is punch cards. Once a month bill the parents and send them 4 buisness cards good for five meals each. Base the cost on ability to pay. Everybody eating in the cafeteria uses the same card nobody knows who paid and who didn’t.
    It is sad that the administrators didn’t see this problem befor they made the decsions that created it. The stigma of free lunches is obviously nothing new.
    The other sad thing is that the kids will still stigmatize those with less and envy those with more. Even though none of them have done anything deserving envy or stigmatization. It is pure luck that determines the financial status of your parents.

  18. My son’s middle school uses the debit cards. I write my son a check whenever he’s a little low and he takes it in to The Caterer (not The Cafeteria Guy!) to recharge his card. I do believe my son’s entire school is completely clueless as to payment status except perhaps The Caterer.

    The other method, two separate lines, is abhorrent. I hope all school systems will eliminate it.

  19. Every school my daughter has attended has used “lunch accounts” where they just give their name/number, and all money goes into the account via a check from the parents.

    That way the free lunch kids just have money in their account via the program, and no one knows the difference.

    Once it gets to high school and there’s more a la carte options that don’t fall under free lunch, I don’t know what the solution is. My school had one line for regular lunch and salad bar, and all the crap food was in a separate line, but you had lots of kids in the regular line too, so it wasn’t -too- obviously segregated.

  20. @ #10

    Well, I’m awfully glad that I was able to light such a fuse so early in my day.

    I was taking issue with the journalist, sir. Reading the article, I felt that the tone was a bit off and that some of the phrases used distracted from the real issue at hand. I thought that “kids should eat instead of not eat” was a fairly uncontroversial position.

    And who, really, does deserve to be vilified by this piece? The kids who are collectively responsible for peer pressure? The bureaucrats who failed to realize that segregating the pay and free lines would lead to social stigma? Society-at-large for the fact that there are haves and have-nots? Me for being both a snarky smart-ass and having the misfortune to have posted first?

    Mr. Scalzi: If it’s OK with you, I’d like it if you’d take down both of my comments.

  21. Was a part of that program. Always loved how everybody else in lunch line got flat trays for their food choice, those of us getting subsidies would get the embossed trays to hold food or a brown bag. Oh, the joys of that. And when I got to Ohio, for milk break having everybody else get out their money and then having the lunch ladies say to me loud enough so everybody in line could hear, “Don’t worry, honey, you don’t need to pay.”

  22. PJ, stand by your words. It is a problem, and it is something that bears discussion, it’s just not *the* problem most applicable to *this* discussion. It’s a subset of, “Oh, well, *those* people are ignorant fools and have problems because of it. Because we are wise and enlightened, we do not have any probleohcrap.”
    Most problems are kind of fractal-shaped, and the one you pointed out is not the main bug-body but a leg or something. Most discussions of problems begin with the body and move out. It wasn’t wrong so much as poorly timed.

  23. I attended perhaps the poorest rural school in California, formerly known as the Weedpatch Federal Migrant Labor School. (Yep, the camp from Grapes of Wrath). Many of the campesino parents were too proud to allow their children to take free lunch. And the kids were always so hungry……
    My mom taught at the school for 38 yrs. The hungry kids were yet another reason we ended up with a United Farmworker’s flag in front of our house, (and ohboy, did THAT make me popular with the rich farmer’s kids. *Shrug* Snotty little bastards anyways)
    Another line for being poor ….. Poor is coming up into someone’s yard, to borrow a shovel, so you go to the bathroom in the field, because there ARE no outdoor toilets. And you have to go back to picking the grapes, for $2 a ton.

  24. Our school system (I live in MN) had a debit system. Every child is assigned a PIN and none of the children can tell who receives a free lunch. This is not rocket science, folks!

    It is unbelievable to me that there are “paying” and “free” lines. That is AWFUL. If I were in that situation, I might skip lunch, too. These kids have enough troubles in their lives, they don’t need this, too.

  25. See, this is yet another thing to affirm my love of my high school (and of having been IN high school). Admittedly I graduated three years ago, but I love it nonetheless. While we had a three-line system, there was no stigma attached to any of them. Nearly everyone in the school went to the main one, where you got the normal meal, then there was the line that sold cookies, brownies, other baked goods, and pizza (though IMHO it was terrible pizza), and the line that sold the soups, salads, drinks, and other snack foods.

    Most kids preferred to use the main line because you got more food from it than the other two lines, and it was much MUCH cheaper for those people paying actual money.

    I suppose there was also the idea that there WERE no ‘cool’ cliques in my school. I mean, some kids would identify themselves as such, but no one else really wanted to hang out with them. It didn’t matter what social group you were from (jock, artist, nerd, etc.), everyone in my school hung out with everyone else. Well, excepting those (for lack of a better description) a**holes that no one wanted to be around because that’s what they WERE. And even they came from all walks of life.

    Back on the topic at hand, my school also helped to reduce any stigma there COULD have been over the lunch thing by assigning PINs to the students. If you were free lunch you got just a PIN, if you were reduced lunch you gave a check/cash deposit every week or month (or something like that. I was never reduced, always free). I’m pretty sure quite a few of the students who paid the full amount used the PIN system as well, giving checks and cash deposits. You didn’t HAVE to, but it was always a possibility.

    But really, in my school there was no social stigma with free lunch. I felt no shame getting mine, nor did any of my friends or acquaintances. I can honestly say that I can’t think of a single person who went hungry at my school because they thought free lunch was embarrassing. I know a few who went hungry because they were above that free lunch line but didn’t actually have money to pay, but that’s another story altogether.

  26. If I had a chance to re-phrase my opening comments, I’d just say that was rather naive of Dr. Bhatia to have assumed that, because the social environment of San Francisco is generally more inclusive, high school kids would not be cliquish or erect social barriers. It’s a cornerstone of high school behavior and it’s not just limited to places where one might be able to correctly say that the population at large is less tolerant.

  27. I don’t see why there should not be a social stigma for taking charity. If there is no stigma, it sends entirely the wrong message, i.e. that it is perfectly OK to use other people’s money instead of your own. Maybe at least some of those kids who are stigmatized will hate it enough to bust their ass and succeed so they never have to take anyone’s charity later in life.

    Let the flames begin from all the bleeding hearts…

  28. Meh:

    I always think it’s delightful when people express the opinion that children should be made to feel ashamed of circumstances over which they have no control.

  29. My school here in Fresno, CA does not have this problem because 100% of our students get free lunch. Once you hit 90% qualifying for the program, it’s cheaper to just give it to the other 10% (because of the cost of implementing the program).

    That being said, the other 10% probably also qualify, but this is inner-city Fresno.

  30. Hrmph. No child should go hungry. Not ever. It’s not like they ask to be born.

    The more I listen to people, the more I like my dog…..

  31. Liberals always like their dogs. I remember Clinton around impeachment time marching around with a hound prominently. I think poochie got a Vince Foster bullet through the head after he skated. Never saw it again.

    (I assume it’s ok to troll in this non-daughter thread.)

  32. Well in the case of kids why should they be made to feel bad because Mom or Dad or whomever can’t pay for their lunch? Stigma only works if you have any sort of control over your situation. Otherwise it’s just people, in this case children being cruel to be cruel. I don’t consider myself a bleeding heart but I have been on both sides of the issue. Peer pressure can sometimes be a positive thing however in this case it’s counter productive. Hunger makes one concentrate on hunger. Therefore missing the things they need to learn in order to make a better life later on

  33. TCO:

    Trolling in general is discouraged, as you well know. If you can’t actually say anything germane, don’t say anything.

  34. Gawd. Another of those who thought it hysterically funny to hear a grown man describe a 14 yr old girl as “The Family Dog” on national radio.
    No, you don’t make me angry. You are simply pathetic and sad.
    There is no rebuking an emotional argument. Goodbye, Mr. Troll.

  35. Ah…the zenlike subtlety: trolling is always wrong but some trolling is more wrong than others! Insert Bill trashing Hill and Chell joke here….

  36. Sheesh.. When I was in high school I didn’t worry about who was in which line. (granted I did hit the hamburger and fries line) but more worried about getting laid.

    Something is wrong with these students if they worry about stuff like that instead of important things.

  37. #29 Meh, with that line of reasoning, heck it should be okay if the stronger kids beat the crap out of the younger and weaker kids. You know, so those kids getting beat up will then strive to become stronger and able to beat up other kids. After, what does not kill us only serves to make us stronger. You know, until it does kill us.

  38. Let me get to lunch (of which there ain’t no such things as a free) by way of recent personal data, and a gun-related arrest where I taught in the past few days.

    During the last 10 days of February 2008 I taught in Middle Schools and High Schools of the Pasadena (California) Unified School District as a Substitute teacher of Pre-algebra, Algebra, Geometry, Science, Honors Science (Evolution vs Reincarnation), English Lit (The Great Gatsby), Honors English (“The Incredibles” on DVD), Creative Writing, History (Ancient Israel and Prophets), Computer Lab (they spontaneously Google-imaged a photo of me and my wife with John Varley on the beach), Art, and Detention.

    Most of these days (this was packed into 6 full-time days at 5 different public schools) I bought my food in the same cafeteria where most students got their food free. I paid a few cents more than $2.00 fo the likes of Pseudo-Chinese Orange Chicken and rice, chicken noodle soup, and chocolate milk.

    Each time I was offered the option of going into the faculty annex to said cafeteria, where teachers gleefully say politically incorrect things.

    Sometimes I opted to eat outside (if the weather was nice) at a table with students (who kept coming up to me and asking, variously, was it true that I was (a) a coauthor with Ray Bradbury; and was it (b) true that I’ve earned a million dollars by my writing and computer work). [answers: (a) yes, 3 times; (b) technically you need to add me and my wife to get that first million dollars].

    Follow-up question that I ask in class: if I’ve earned a million dollars, and spent a million dollars, what do I have left? Almost every student answers: “zero.”

    My standard answer: “that would be true if I was a fool. But I am no fool.” Bottom line: I’ve earned a million dollars; I’ve spent a million dollars, what I have left is a million dollar home. Or, actually, what was estimated at a million dollars 6 months ago, but now somewhere over $900,000. Now, young ladies and gentlemen, how is that possible? What is the connection between Prophets and Profits? According to the Forbes 400 special issue, how do you get to be rich? Who is the richest writer in the world? Does the name Harry Potter remind you?

    The following appeared today in my local newspaper, describing an event at once of the schools where I taught in the past fortnight, and where I taught Algebra this past summer to students who’d flunked it once, twice, or 3 times before.

    Report of person with a gun causes officials to close campus for search
    By Robert S. Hong, Staff Writer
    Article Launched: 02/29/2008 10:42:54 PM PST
    http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/ci_8414495

    High School students are cleared out of classrooms and led to the gym and football field as Pasadena police search for a person with a gun at Blair IB Magnet in Pasadena Friday, February 29, 2008. (Staff Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz)

    • Photo Gallery: Blair IB Magnet Lockdown

    PASADENA – Reports of a person with a gun at Blair International Baccalaureate Magnet School prompted police to lock down the campus for most of Friday and send a SWAT team to the school, startling students and throwing parents into a panic.

    No gun was found, police said.

    Students were in the middle of classes when the report occurred at about 9:30 a.m., forcing them to remain in the same classrooms for the rest of the school day while police searched and followed up on leads.

    Hours later, rows of students, their hands on their heads, could be seen being escorted by heavily armed officers back and forth through the campus.

    Police said they received a call that a female student had seen a person on the campus with a gun. However, there were conflicting reports throughout the day – some saying the person was an adult; others saying he was a student.

    Police later detained one juvenile male for questioning, but officials would not confirm whether he was a student at the school.

    Officers responded immediately after getting the call, swarming through the school and blocking off streets around the area, Pasadena Police Department Lt. Tom Pederson said.

    “The school and Police Department have a plan for this type of incident, and
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    it was implemented,” he said.

    Several students said they were startled at the site of armed officers streaming through their school.

    “I was scared, I got down on the floor,” said 14-year-old Whitney Thompson.

    Khemet Williams, 13, and several friends were in math class when the lockdown was ordered. He said they used resources at hand to learn more about what was going on outside.

    “One of the security guards said, `Lock your doors and windows, this is an emergency,”‘ Williams said. “We got on the Internet and looked at the news Web sites to see what was going on.”

    Outside the school, a growing throng of worried parents gathered to await word about their children.

    “I’m sad. You hear about things like this all over the news, but you never think it will happen to your kid,” said parent Karla Lima of Hawthorne.

    Tonya Jones of Los Angeles said she was confident officials had things under control but still felt anxious.

    “I’m not worried because the school is prepared and we know everybody’s alright,” said Jones. “But it makes you nervous to know there could be a gun at school.”

    As the hours wore on, several parents complained that school officials were providing little information. Others wanted officials to move more swiftly in releasing their children.

    Many said they used cell phones to call their children to find out what was going on.

    “I’ve been here since 11:30. They’ve sent me back and forth,” said Ethel Love, who was waiting with a crowd of other parents on Euclid Avenue at 4 p.m. “This is crazy, I still don’t know where my son is.”

    Those who called the school got a voice message from Principal Rich Boccia, reassuring them that things were under control.

    “We’re executing a lock-down drill. We’ve locked down our facility, we’re executing our plan… We’re all calm, every student is fine, all staff is fine,” his message stated.

    robert.hong@sgvn.com

  39. Let’s hear the politically incorrect stuff that the teachers said in private!!!!

    I think the Inredibles is a fun movie, but Honors English should be reading BOOOOOOOOOKS.

  40. Tom, the lower the socioeconomic standing the harder it is to get laid. They are worried about the important things.
    #31 well said. Raising my social standing by sucking up to the host is easy when he is right.
    #33 I agree except I would subsitute my cat for a dog I don’t have.

  41. Many of the schools (middle and high) that I’ve taught or subbed in in the last decade or so have almost a food court going on. So you have the standard cafeteria lunch which may cost $3.00 and which is the one where kids can use a swipe card (free lunch and full paying).

    But then, you have mini pizza hut, mini taco bell, and mini burger king booths that are cash only. It is the ‘richer’ kids that go to these and can pay cash. Even some of the students who get the cafeteria lunch will go and get french fries or nachos to add into it. These items are regular price and the swipe/debit cards are not used here.

    So there is still a stigma, and there is still our schools turning into McSchool by advertising for and providing a profit for very poor nutritional foods from fast food joints. One of the main solutions to this problem would be to get the damned commericialized food courts out of the school systems.

    It is an incredible fund-raising opportunity for the school, so obviously, funds would have to be raised some other way…like people voting for bond issues and tax levies, etc.

  42. I’m surprised there’s no secondary market. Back when I was in school, a hot lunch cost something like $1.00. Or you’d get a “lunch ticket” from your homeroom teacher if your name was on the list.

    And, if you wanted to save a bit on lunch (or forgot your buck, but could scrounge up a little change) there was a specific place in the lunchroom where you could always find a kid with a lunch ticket willing to sell it to you for 65 cents. (And everyone knew about it, too. That table was the place, and 65 cents was the going rate.) Some kids were regular customers; I only used the service when I didn’t have $1.00 on me. They’d take the 65 cents and buy their desired unhealthy food at the snack bar; I’d take the lunch ticket and get the hot main and two sides.

    Lunch personnel who knew me sometimes raised an eyebrow when I handed them a ticket rather than the buck, but they never said anything. Free market at work and all that.

    Never really crossed my mind that anyone with a lunch ticket wasn’t using it because of any sort of social stigma. I just figured they weren’t using them because they’d rather have chips and a slice of pizza.

  43. Meh, my family qualified for free/reduced lunch when I first started school. Why? Because both my parents are teachers, and we didn’t have a lot of money.

    A few of my friends and labmates qualify for and use food stamps. Why? Because they’re students, and while we’re paid damned well for students, ‘damned well for students’ won’t feed a family.

  44. More debt, bonds are a form of loan, more taxes. Sorry Lisa but I’m not going to vote for that. Something like 40% of Californias budget goes to education. What happened to the money the lottery generated? Where did all the money from proerty taxes go? Until very recently California real estate was going nuts. To say nothing of income and sales taxes. I have never been a teacher but I know in the places I have worked when ever some department fails the number one excuse is always we didn’t have enough resources to get the job done. Coming from a teacher a plea for more money rings hollow.

  45. The funding/school quality issue aside, because it is another issue than the one being discussed here, does this mean that you are supportive of schools that allow corporate food chains in the cafeteria to increase revenue? Inasmuch as much of the food served is not very nutritious and also separates the poorer students from the richer ones, thus making fast food cool? This is the crux of the issue I’m getting at. We can discuss school funding in and of itself elsewhere if you like. Perhaps at Whateveresque?

  46. 1. Mandatory education should end at 16 (or after grade 9 or 10 for convenience).

    2. Get rid of all the incentives and subsidies of colleges. It’s a racket. A lot of those college professors and administrators should get real jobs. Only the best and the motivated should be in school. And kids who want a summer camp experience sans parents should go backpack around the world.

    3. “Yale or jail” is NPR silliness. Trades are useful work.

    4. Control the border and send the illegals home so that there is more work for the lower classes born here.

  47. Why is it these self-righteous pseudo-conservatives fail to understand social welfare programs are an investment in our society? Children who don’t eat right, who grow up malnourished in dirty conditions, don’t develop as well as their adequately fed peers, making them subpar workers, students, soldiers and citizens. When we help anyone, we help ourselves. Why is that such a difficult concept for some people?

    Social welfare is society paying it forward.

    And what exactly is wrong with compassion anyway? Are these people really so afraid of appearing weak? Do they think someone will come and take away what they have for caring?

    In this richest country in the world, it’s a crime any citizen should go hungry.

  48. Maybe it’s because I went to school in rural Ontario or maybe I’m completely oblivious to events going on around me, but I wasn’t aware of any kind of free lunch program when I was in school. Hell, we didn’t even have a cafeteria in K-8. Everyone brought their lunch and ate at their desk. There was a cafeteria in high school, but about half the kids brought their lunch with them.

  49. Here in the Cleveland area we all had a good laugh. They had a problem with parents who didn’t pay up on their kids’ school lunch accounts. So they started taking the kids with overdrawn accounts out of the regular line and fed them technically nutritious but inedible food like boiled cabbage. Not only did they end up hungry, but everyone could tell that their parents were deadbeats. Ha Ha! Ha. The Cleveland Plain Dealer thought it was a great idea. I hope those cafeteria workers burn in hell . . . while being force fed boiled cabbage.

  50. I work for a photography studio that photographs high schools for yearbook and ID (and school photos, natch) and every single card has a barcode on it tied to the student’s ID. (Some schools use the ID itself; others use a “P number.”)

    This includes both our highest end school, the richest in the region, and the… um… ghetto-y school. And all of the schools’ greatest concern is that the barcode can be read by their scanners, because that’s how they do things. Library check-outs. School events. And yes, lunch lines.

    I really don’t see why anyone should know who is requiring a subsidized lunch. And while it’s unfortunate that the kids feel a stigma because of subsidized lunch, it’s probably the worst time in life in terms of peer pressure. You can’t deny that it happens, nor can you expect the vast majority of kids to suck it up.

    (I recall asking friends in junior high and high school “Are you going to eat that?” a lot but it wasn’t because we didn’t have food at home; it was just I always seemed to need more food than I’d remember to pack in the morning. I might have felt a stigma if I’d ever stopped to think about it, but hey, they were throwing away perfectly good stuff. And I was a weird kid anyway.)

  51. I agree Lisa, we were straying from this threads subject. I am against schools allowing fast food and soda machines on campus. Not because of the social status issues but because of the nutritional issues. On top of that public schools shouldn’t be profit driven. I will pass on further debate on school funding. I don’t think either of us will change our opinion on this subject no matter how good our respective arguments are.

  52. Yes, TCO.

    1: Education is useless. Stupid people are much easier to control and mostly stay poor, giving us ample fodder for our future incursions and wars. Hey, maybe we can even finally take Jonathan Swift’s (satiric) advice and just start eating poor people’s babies. At least no one would go hungry at that point.

    2: Colleges are just ridiculous. Take my own life – I never got a degree and now I am happily employed at … Borders. I sell books. I am very well off because of this – I can almost afford the gas it takes to get there every workday. Conversely, my wife is a veterinarian, which took many years of a college education to achieve. She saves animals, which by your tone I can only assume you feel is an asinine undertaking, and is highly respected, and well paid enough that we can actually afford to pay for a home in Southern California – even without my kingly income. They should burn that college to the ground.

    3: Nothing wrong with a trade school. Of course, I’ve never heard that “Yale or Jail” stuff before, but I can only assume they were talking about some (well, one) of our government “leaders”. That must’ve been the choice that judge gave him. If it had been a poor person, the choice would have been “Army or jail” which is the draft no one talks about, but we need SOME way to thin the herd.

    4: If our lower classes wanted to pick grapes, there wouldn’t be a market for “illegals”. I guess our poor are just too proud to stand out in a hot field all day, live in tar shacks, drink a ladle of water whenever anyone thinks to bring out a bucket, have no health care, eat substandard food, for something like .20 to .50 cents an hour. Our poor are just too lazy to submit to the modern equivalent of slavery. I don’t eat grapes anyway.

    I know there is nothing anyone can say that would change your narrow simple mind TCO, but maybe if you enjoy your lack of formal education and trade schools so much, you should go learn how to pick veggies and keep the “illegals” out on your own. Take the rest of the ditto-heads with you. Then you and your like won’t have time to clutter up message boards with your uninformed trolling and small-minded opinions.

    I am done.

  53. When I was in high school, you could get a peanut butter sandwich and a carton of milk for 27 cents.

    In college, we suggested that the cafeteria could save money (all board prepaid, and required) by putting peanut butter, jelly and bread out for every meal. I suspect it worked because they kept doing it.

    I suspect the schools need to institute a free (or subsidized) peanut butter sandwich line — for everyone. It is better than no food, and still at a modest price point today.

  54. I qualified for free/reduced lunch in my old high school. I never had a problem with it. If you got the Whatever-and-fries, the salad bar or the potato bar, it was the same food as full price lunches. I was never embarrassed by the fact. Quite the contrary, really. I could eat two lunches (getting the first at the free/reduced rate and paying full price for the second out of my allowance) for the same or only a few cents more than others paid for one. I did this because the portions were the same portions I had been getting since elementary schools and one lunch portion just weren’t enough. I am not a small person and have never been. I told people I was on reduced lunch. Not in a bragging tone, or as a I’m-better-because-I’m-poor, but just as a matter of fact. My parents were getting divorced around that time and my mom didn’t make near as much as my dad. Child support only did so much. We qualified. I was never ashamed of that. I knew what was going on and I wasn’t afraid of explaining it to any shmuck choosing to have a problem with it.

  55. Hmmm…I was from a small hick town, so everybody knew my dad was a truck driver and that all of our family’s lunch money went to the only bar in town that would let him keep coming in. Almost everybody knew, I was sure of it at the time. With that going for me, I suppose the least of my worries was getting that free lunch card punched everyday. It was pretty embarrassing, and that food was so nasty I think I would’ve felt worse if I had paid for it (ha ha).

    But really, I think it was harder not to wear fashionable clothes, and to be stuck with dirt poor friends who didn’t know any better. And then your non-dirt poor friends seeming to distance themselves from you when wearing the right clothes started to matter, rather than tell you what’s up. I didn’t need to wear Guess jeans (those were the cool ones back then), just be somewhat fashionable.

    Although my classmates knew that I was poor and very strange, I don’t remember feeling like a total outcast anymore than I allowed myself to be. I remember being loved…not necessarily popular for being cool…but well-liked because I was really funny.

    You know what’s embarrassing now? Being from a small hick town.

    Happy St. David’s Day!

  56. Cold, pocket full’a gold; hot pocket full’a snot. I’ts been 15 years since I dropped out, I can’t believe I still remember that crap.

  57. This is exactly why I took a job in the school lunch room during my study hall period. I got a free lunch, but didn’t have to say a word about it. I went through the line like everyone else and then walked off with my food like the kids who had prepaid lunch.

    A secondary benefit was always knowing what was good and what wasn’t. I just held out my plate and the cafeteria lady (whichever one of the three was working the line) put whatever tasted the best that day on my plate. My parents always thought of it as a huge sacrifice, but I was thrilled. Sure it meant that I didn’t get to do homework during study hall, but the lunch ladies always covered for me if I needed the time to cram for a test or something.

    It also meant that when my parents *did* have the money for me to pay for lunch again… I got to spend it on books!

    :)

    –Jeremy

  58. Wow.
    First of all, I’m surprised by the snarkiness of some of the commenters.
    Secondly, I’m shocked that I can still be surprised by other people’s snarkiness.

    When I went and read the article, what I was struck by was how low the poverty line was. Then, I compared that to the very, very comfortable living I make.
    It’s time to donate more money to a worthy local charity that helps families in need.
    Thanks for the reminder of just how well off I really am.

  59. Y’know, when I left my comment here yesterday I was just feeling cranky and sarcastic and frustrated with administrators who want to make life more difficult(!) for children. It didn’t take long for some people to show up who truly believe there isn’t enough misery and hate in the world: people like that are one of the reasons I got a vasectomy.

    Enjoy that karmic debt, guys.

  60. Bigger picture here:
    I worry about excessive efforts to de-stigmatize indicators of poverty. Many people who have achieved a better life will (if they are honest with themselves) admit that the fire inside them stemmed from a desire to not be impoverished and suffer further stigma or shame. If our society succeeds in making poverty easier to conceal, we will be on the path to fairness for all: Communism /Socialism.
    I was a poor kid. I was aware of my poverty, as others were. I endeavored to work hard to make a better life for myself. I credit this effort to my formative years and an awareness of my poverty. Is my situation unique? I don’t think it is. This awareness helped me in the long run.
    By the way, I understand that lack of proper nutrition is the problem that we are trying to fix. But these kids have a choice and we should not make that choice artificially easy. They are free to decide to eat it or not. That choice is not available to most of the other impoverished children in this world.

  61. Consequences, it is good to strive. But shame isn’t a universal motivator– I don’t trust shame, self-loathing, and malnutrition to lead everyone to a sensible, poor-people-hating adulthood. I also don’t think it counts as charity if you demand a five-paragraph essay titled, “Why I Am Worse Than My Benefactor”.

    Besides, qualifying for charity does not mean you haven’t tried to get out. Like I said earlier, my family qualified for free/reduced lunches when I was younger– my parents were both teachers. Should I have been shamed into not eating? Some of my labmates are on food stamps. Should they be shamed every time they go to the grocery store? Foster families receive some help for their expenses. Should the families be shamed when they accept it? Should the children?

    I would much rather that people who need help receive it, especially help related to food. I don’t think that becoming a more charitable society will hurt us in any way. Making it possible and/or easier for people to accept charity is part of that.

  62. In college, I intentionally requested the largest meal plan there was. I managed to feed quite a few friends on that plan who’s financial aid got cut.

    While I agree that the students who’re in free lunch programs should be given a way to get food with dignity, finding some way to reverse the sense of shame is also a worthy goal. I don’t think it serves anyone to have that sense of shame continue. If anyone should be ashamed, it’s the people who’re better off, and not doing anything to help others.

  63. I had subsidized free lunch for two years. My school used punch tickets (this is 35 years ago). When the lines were long, the cafeteria cashier would make the free lunch kids stand aside while she took cash. Apparently pausing to pick up the hole puncher was incredibly time-consuming and inconvenienced the paying kids. The free lunch kids would stand against the wall with their trays, not talking. Our paying friends would pretend they didn’t see us.

    My sister is going thru a nasty divorce. Her husband has intentionally saddled her with debt as punishment. Their kids are on state health care. I pay my sister’s rent. She didn’t ask for any of this. Her kids had even less say in the matter.

    To those who think this is motivation to grow up and not be poor, well, you obviously lead very charmed lives, to say nothing about the cluelessness about why some people end up using these programs. It’s not only because their parents have no job skills or motivation to get their kids off the program. There’s a thing out there called life, which really doesn’t care if you are a skilled carpenter who got laid off, or end up living in a house with a yearly tax bill that is larger than its mortgage because real estate values soared, or your father turns out to be a dead-beat dad.

    To think being poor is some kind of character-building motivation to grow up and not let my own kids go through that is incredibly insulting to my parents and all parents like them. My parents didn’t want it to happen. My sister didn’t want it to happen.

    Yeah, it’s character-building. But the character trait that gets built is compassion for those who have to go through it.

  64. @#70 It goes to show that even one individual’s callousness can leave a lasting impression.

    Financial perturberations are the mortal enemy of justice.
    The right to, and access to food is the primary question of justice.

    “Dark sarcasm in the staffroom” is still very prevalent. I’m not a bleeding heart but education is perhaps one of the few remaining foundations of society where the free-market cannot provide a solution. Technology will. The lack of social interaction and all of Its problems or possible benefits may be the cost of engaging a more self-directed education. It must be considered an honor to be educated again; get away from the notion that schools are just a free(er) form of daycare. The fact that all the kids need a quality meal at lunch time is just as important as the SmartBoards and LCD projectors.

  65. Unintended Consequences, umm, yeah. You might want to do a bit more research on that, I think your politics are getting in the way of rational thought.

    Or by continuing that thought, by emphasising the difference between the haves and have-nots, we then get the natural outcome of a stratified society that leads to Monarchy.

  66. Unintended Consequences @ 67,

    If our society succeeds in making poverty easier to conceal, we will be on the path to fairness for all: Communism /Socialism.

    Isn’t it funny that you think it takes less money to motivate the poor and yet it takes more money to motivate the rich?

    We need to keep the workers wages down so they will work harder and yet we need to increase the executives bonuses and pay so they will work harder.

    “If I can do it anyone can” is a Republican talking point that has been steadily drummed into us for the last thirty five years. Besides being false it allows us to blame the victims.

    Do you know the CEO of Morgan Stanley led his stock through a 50% decline in value and got a $150 Million bonus for it when he left? They “had” to offer that in his contract so he would be motivated to do a good job.

    Yeah, sure, no double standard there. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

    One of my principles is that the Strong should protect the Weak. Aholes like you think the weak deserve what they get so they can get ‘motivated.’

    If you truly came from modest beginnings I’d think you’d have a little friggin’ compassion and empathy but I forgot, you are a Republican – “I’ve got mine so to hell with everyone else.”

  67. My kids’ school doesn’t use debit cards; all the kids have a PIN and a debit account. You punch in your number and it deducts money. There’s no way for the kids to tell whether another kid’s account is subsidized lunch money, or whether it’s filled up by their parents.

    Not that kids aren’t often very, very aware of each others’ financial situation, mind you.

  68. Oh, and apologizes for the double post, but:

    Children who don’t eat right, who grow up malnourished in dirty conditions, don’t develop as well as their adequately fed peers, making them subpar workers, students, soldiers and citizens. When we help anyone, we help ourselves.

    Dave – they also don’t grow up to be in any physical shape to be admitted to military service. That’s one of the main reasons we have a subsidized lunch program. I love explaining this to pinhead conservatives; they don’t much like the notion that there won’t be a huge pool of Those Other People to draw on for, oh, say, a draft.

  69. I don’t remember ‘free lunch’ from when I was in school. They sold tickets – everyone had the same ticket color for lunch, one line only, with another color for the milk tickets, which were separate from lunch; now I figure that there was some kind of subsidy involved somewhere in the system. A lot of us brought lunches from home. Everyone ate in the cafeteria anyway, so it wasn’t like there was a noticeable difference. (No, we didn’t have fast food available. This was in the Dark Ages.)

  70. My high school, way back in the early seventies, had a cafeteria but the kitchen was closed down. Probably a budget cut.
    There were some vending machines; sandwiches, candy, pop and the like. Crappy food. I coveted the ice cream bars but seldom had enough money to indulge. There was also a large glass box selling Red Delicious apples for a quarter that may have been installed by under pressure from Washington State agriculture interests. For the record the apples were red but not delicious.
    Microwave ovens were not common so lunch was always cold and most kids brought theirs from home. Considering the hot lunches I remember from junior high I’ll bet we ate better food than the standard state chow.
    I don’t know what the poor kids ate. I didn’t even know which kids were poor.
    Of course I had my nose in a book most of the time and may be an unreliable witness.

  71. First – thanks, John, for the initial link/discussion starter.

    I never bought lunch – I was that kid eating whole grain sprouts and hand-curdled yoghurt; not exactly stigmatised for poverty, just for being weird – but have recently watched my kindergartener proudly using his PIN and taking great delight in offering to buy me lunch. I happen to know a fair amount about the financial standing of some of his peers – but there’s no way I could have gained such info from the dining hall. For once, progress really is progress. Seems like the kind of thing that would be a useful addition to the mandate that such programs exist in the first place, really.

    [In the UK, driven - to the government's shame and embarrassment - largely by a celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, there is currently a (fairly) huge movement* to get school lunches away from junk and back to being healthy, tasty, and preferably locally sourced. There are glints of such in the US - one of my local CT schools has an organic garden that not only feeds the children but also makes a profit for the school - but it's certainly only nascent. At least the tide seems to have turned against e.g. agreements that a given brand of sugar-water shall be the only beverage available in a given public school!]

    *http://www.jamieoliver.com/schooldinners/

    Sorry – somewhat off the original track. To return to which: if we can get to the point where society provides for *all* children well, there will be neither cause nor desire for segregation/stigma. Wouldn’t that be progress? I’ve been really saddened by folks opposing support for *children’s* healthcare/education/food/whatever on the basis that it will teach their parents to do better. Logic – or Morality – 101, anyone?

  72. One possible method to keep free-lunchers away from the junk food:

    Use the same card system for everyone, but using the card at the junk food counter requires parental consent (a flag stored on the card). Of course, that parental consent flag is only available for paid cards — but *that* point doesn’t get publicized…. So the poor kids can just say, “oh, my parents don’t want me eating that crud”.

  73. To me this thread is enlightening and sad. I am 32, I am from a suburb of Ottawa in Ontario Canada. There literally were few poor kids. They were literally 1 a class if at all.

    I don’t hink there were any lucnch programs all through all 13 grades (yes back then Ontario had 13 grades!)

    But sadly I remember Grade 4 or 5.. (same teacher both years) I had a packed luck from my mom.. with homemade stuff… I guess it was probably a sandwich wrapped in wax paper and two or three cookies wrapped in wax paper and maybe but up carrots or celery wrapped in wax paper.

    Anyway thinking about it I was in grade 4 and he was in grade 5.. Danny… he always got in trouble and we had a strict teacher.. in a good way rather than a bad way. He caled all to account and the students who did not do their corrections… got to stay late or miss recess… but the teacher stayed with them.. payed more attention to them spent his time after school trying to help them though he pointed them out for all to see.

    Then and now I can see he loved them.

    Anyway… One day I said to the teacher that someone had stolen some of my lunch… As I ALWAYS got 3 things and the cookies were missing… homemade cookies from my homemaker mom that made a large batch and froze them and put them in my and my brothers lunches each day.

    There was a search… Danny had the cookies in his bookbag. I identified them…. He got in trouble.. Danny who was bigger and a bit of a bully never held it against me… and oddly I never really looked down on him for stealing them… I think in hindsight it might have happened a couple of previous times.. leading me to report it to the teacher.

    Danny and I were later friends in highschool to a degree.

    The entire incident now is so sad. Danny was the fastest guy there ever was.. in track in elementary or middle school. Pretty smart and while I think he got in trouble with the law and when I was into pot in highschool.. he was in the situation… he simply was a pretty decent guy if at times doing illegal things…

    He had to STEAL my lunch in grade 4.. he was in grade 5 he stole the cookies but I am thinking he simplay had NO LUNCH at all! The only kid left out in a rich suburd of a rich city in a rich country… I think with a single dad or mom (can’t remember)

    There was no cafeteria for him to get food at free. I think if my mom had been asked or if I had simply offered she would have gladly given me a bigger lunch to help him out with no guilt involved. Heck if I had more in my lunch I’d gladly have given him some.

    I even think our teacher would have spent a buch a day to give Danny a lunch if he knew Danny did not have one… he spent hours a week when he could have gone home to teach him alone…. a buch a day.. a tuna or bologna or peanut butter sandwich would have easily come from him for Danny if he knew and thought it would help him.

    While I caught on with judging other in middle school a bit… in grade school I was imune.. maybe others were not but you know what honestly I think the parents, the students, the teachers would not only have not looked down on Danny or maybe the 1 or 2 others in the class that needed a boost.. they would have gladly helped him out as a group or as individuals… no negative judgement needed.

  74. Way back in 1971-77, from junior high school onward in sedate Cinnaminson, NJ, I qualified for free or reduced lunch.

    There was no à la carte. One either paid or used a prepaid, issued *punch* card for the one type of prepared meal. The cashier punched it the same way, whether it was subsidized by the government or not.

    I can’t report on feelings of shame because when tested a few years later for inclination to peer-influence, the psychologist noted that I scored-rock bottom on that scale.

    I’d cheerfully answer that I ate for free if asked and would often ask tablemates if they intended to let their greenbeans go to waste.

    I know I ate 28 helpings of candied yams on one occasion in the cafeteria in eighth grade.

    But you see, I lived in Central America as a child and the site of starving, naked people in the streets of the capital, walking with legs bowed from rickets, and living off rainwater from culverts while residing in packing crate favelas outside the base gates impressed me mightily.

    JJB

  75. As it happens, the school the article features, Balboa High School, is the school where my daughter is a senior. She brings her lunch to school–except on Chow Mein days. She likes the Chow Mein. And I don’t think the kid actually notices much about the socio-economic status of her friends, at lunch or other times. That doesn’t mean that those of her friends who aren’t middle class don’t believe that she notices.

    Perception is everything. Particularly in high school.

    I’ve been privy to a number of listserve discussions about how to fix the school lunch problem; some people focus on the fact that we don’t all have Alice Waters running our school lunch program (as at least one Berkeley school does), insisting on locally grown produce and meat. But the majority of concerned voices have been about how to handle the free lunch/paid lunch problem so that no one feels stigmatized. The Point of Service plan that’s been proposed would fix it–only it would take some umpty thousands of dollars to implement, and with the Governor cutting funds to education again, it’s not likely to happen any time soon. Which sucks.

    As for shaming the kids who get free lunch? I view such programs as baldly self-interested (on the part of society). The community pays to feed kids so that they can learn better, and perhaps be more successful, and contribute to the society that provided the free lunch. Sounds like an intelligent quid pro quo to me.

  76. Going just slightly off topic (because Australia doesn’t have the subsidised lunch system, everyone brings packed lunches), but still a comment about removing the stigma of being poor from students. I’m more commenting for general info into “here’s how somethings work in places other than the US” , in case anyone is interested. Mr Scalzi, if you think it’s too far off topic please remove it.

    Australia wears school uniforms. That was the single best equaliser I have ever experienced in the world of teenage spite. Sure, we knew which families had more or less money and we could see who bought new uniforms every year and who had second hand ones, but we all looked the same. We still had all the same in-groups and social problems of non-uniform-wearing schools, but my experience was that they were less severe. Plus it drastically reduced the cost of clothing for the kids of those families that were only scraping by. If visual clues as to who is poor or not (eg. seperate lunch lines) should be avoided, there are a number of ways it can be addressed.

  77. I’m late to this thread. We live in a state where every child’s lunch is subsidized. The “full price” students only pay 80 cents, which is less that I paid for lunch when I was in high school 25 years ago. Our children are on reduced-price lunch (40 cents), and none of the other students know it. We send a check at the beginning of the month that covers their lunch money, and when they go through the line they give the cashier their “lunch number.” It’s the same for all students. And this is probably the least progressive state in the U.S. (Louisiana). I can’t believe that if we have such a system here, there is any place that is actually more backward that where I live! That is really sad.

    Free and reduced price lunches make sense from a purely educational standpoint: a child cannot concentrate on his school work if he has inadequate nutrition.

    I agree with the comment about uniforms. All the schools here have uniforms, and it cuts down on the teasing and comparisons.

  78. I was in elementary school during the ’70s when they started the free lunch program in NJ, and we were pretty poor. I vaguely remember getting the free lunches when I was 6, maybe even 7 years old, and I could have cared less; my mother, on the other hand, must have been deeply embarassed about it because she made me take my lunch every day after a while. My assumption is that some kid went home and asked him mom why he had to pay for lunch, but I did not. And my mother, regardless of how poor we were, was far too concerned with appearances to allow that to go on.

  79. Our parents wouldn’t let us take the free/reduced lunch. Probably had something to do with the dirty looks we got using food stamps at our (very) small-town grocery store.

  80. Late to the thread, but this presses my buttons.

    Those kids, like me, who had to bring their lunches because they were too poor for $1.25 a day, but too rich for free lunch, those were the shamed kids.

    The free lunch kids? They would brag about how they didn’t have to pay for lunch, so they got to spend their money on whatever they wanted. There was no stigma, there, there was almost pride in their free lunch status.

    And what they wanted extra milk and two or three ice creams, so that’s what they’d buy…every day. You could even see the lunch cashier ladies with their disapproving looks at the “free lunch, but here’s $2 in cash for all the extra crap I’m buying” kids, and those kids would just smirk back at them.

    To this day I get really, really angry thinking about it. Being able to buy my lunch was a rare treat, I loved being able to eat a hot lunch instead of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an apple. And I think of all those free lunch kids with their trays piled up with all that extra food…

    I don’t know how to fix the system, but looks like it’s still as screwed up as ever.

  81. There’s a simple fix for this that many districts used to do until Reagan came along and gutted as many entitlement programs as he could. Everyone gets a free lunch. No division of spoils. Kids go to school, rich or poor, lunch is on the school system. This would not only take care of “additional stigma” it would also put just a bit more control of what kids eat in the hands of the school.

    When everyone gets something, it ceases to be controversial.

  82. I got free lunch as a kid. If anybody talked shit about it I would punch them in the face. This is good for the kids. There is too much pussification of kids nowadays. Being singled out as poor is not a big deal and will not ruin kids lives. It will make them better people. It is good for kids to experience minor difficulties or discomforts like these so they can learn to deal with them on their own. It will prepare them for the future shitstorms they will face in life without crying and expecting someone to come up with some ridiculous elaborate plan to spare them from the slightest negative feelings. After dropping out of high school to work I went on to be homeless a few times for 2-3 month periods, I got food stamps, lived in section 8 housing got my ged and got student grants and loans. It tought me to bust my ass and not cry and bitch that some imaginary person is somewhere is rich and has an easy life. I always felt blessed to live in a country where the government would give me the basics allowing me to have a reasonable means to succeed. If I lived in a different country I would have probably stolen food and gotten my hands cut off so I never really sweated if someone looked down on me for being poor. Instead I went on to work hard and be self-reliant and now I own several small businesses and make enough money to donate large chunks to charity. Paying taxes makes me happy cause I know some kid out there can eat lunch and go to college. Stop being so sensetive and over-protective of your kids, it will be far more damaging to them in the long run than allowing them to experience their natural human emotions of sadness and frustration. Be greatful for what you have, because it really is a lot in comparison with billions of other people in the world.

  83. When lunch is on the school system, lunch is on all of us. How about I provide my own child’s lunch and you do the same? The California free and reduced pay lunch and breakfast program has been so corrupted that it is just a complete joke. Janitors are sickened by how much food they are throwing away every day by children who hardly touch their meals. Schools have no incentive to check on the truthfulness of parent’s applications, because once the school reaches a certain level of free/reduced lunches, the school receives increased Title 1 funding. I work in the education system, and I know that this particular system needs an overhaul. I agree that hungry children need food, but aren’t we giving the parents food stamps? Shouldn’t they be providing their children with breakfast and lunch from the food purchased with the food stamps?

  84. Jill Cort:

    “How about I provide my own child’s lunch and you do the same?”

    I’ll assume you have the same objection to giving those poor children a free education on your own precious, precious dime as well.

    I also find interesting your objection to free lunches but not to food stamps, which are also on your precious dime, as well as your general feeling that because the system of apportioning free food at schools is broken, therefore poor children shouldn’t be getting free food. Which is a marvelous way of punishing the only people in the entire equation who are totally blameless regarding the process.

    Also, I’m sure these janitors of which you speak have some sort of special ability to track which food is thrown out specifically by children who are getting free lunches.

    In all, I don’t think much of your objections, which are logically inconsistent, cruel to the people who need the help the most, and largely stupid.

  85. [Deleted for being a textbook example of stupid, selfish cluelessness attempting to pass itself off as libertarianism -- JS]

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