Shameful Lunch Shaming
Today’s front page New York Times story on shaming children so that parents will pay the lunch bill is yet another perverse example of why we need to protect the powerless in our society. A better way to fix the problem would be to ensure that school officials see the direct connection between nutritious meals for kids and the educational achievement so necessary to make American economically competitive.
We’ve worked with Democratic and Republican governors across the country to encourage school superintendents to make school meals more accessible for all. Some governors have gone as far as to call them to the governor’s mansion to review how many eligible kids still need to enroll in their school meals programs. They also discuss proactive, efficient reforms, like moving breakfast from the cafeteria to the more accessible classroom, to ensure more students began their day with healthy meals.
Today, savvy school leaders are embracing school meals as part of their school supply checklist. Principal Matt Mellor in Arkansas welcomes his students to school by providing a nutritious breakfast consumed in the calm setting of their classroom. Rodney Taylor, School Nutrition Director in Virginia, is providing three meals a day to his highest need students in an effort to ensure no child ever suffers the indignity of hunger. “Not on my watch,” Taylor states on a regular basis.
Here is what’s really shameful: Because poor kids are not only vulnerable but voiceless, schools in every state in the nation are leaving money in Washington that could be used to feed their kids and improve their educational outcomes. Schools in every state in the nation could and should be doing more to feed their kids and improve their educational outcomes. Programs like school lunch and school breakfast have strong bipartisan support and the funds necessary to feed kids in need. We are better than shame and stigma, and each one of us should raise our voice to policy makers in Washington and policy makers in school districts to invest in our children through good nutrition, not shame them.