Lunch Shaming


cjones06012017

Sometimes I’ll draw a cartoon on a national issue that hasn’t gone national yet. At least not in the sense that CNN gives it the same coverage of a Donald Trump bowel movement. “Lunch shaming” is one of those issues.

Have you heard the term “lunch shaming?” Get ready because you’re about to hear a lot more about it. What is “lunch shaming?” I’m glad you asked. It’s when parents haven’t paid the bill for their kid’s school lunch, so the school puts the pressure on the child. In what ways do they exert pressure? Again, I’m glad you asked because this is where it gets shitty.

North Carolina elementary school principal threatened to keep students from taking part in a school field trip if their debt was left unpaid. A New York Times article reports that in Pennsylvania a student’s tray of food was taken away from her and dumped in the trash after it was discovered she had an unpaid balance. One Utah school threw away about 40 lunches after discovering the students had not paid up (so let’s just waste the food). In Alabama, children have been stamped on their arm with “I need lunch money.” They’re literally branding children. If that doesn’t make you mad, then seriously…that should make you mad. What’s wrong with you?

While some school districts won’t feed the child, others will give them two slices of bread and a slice of government cheese in the middle. They call that a sandwich. We feed prisoners better.

The Department of Agriculture reported back in 2014 (before Trump was president and we cared about hungry children) that nearly half of all districts used some form of shaming to compel parents to pay bills. (About 45 percent withheld the hot meal and gave a cold sandwich, while 3 percent denied food entirely.) There was more howling from Republicans about Michelle Obama wanting kids to eat healthier in our schools than about current Secretary of Education Betsy Devos and Donald Trump’s plan to cut education funding, which will hit school lunches.

I’m a dad. I know a lot of other dads and even mothers. I can’t think of one who would be cool with a school employee writing on their children and branding them as a loser.

School is a difficult time for a child. You remember. You still have nightmares about it. It’s an environment where you’re ridiculed and bullied if you wear the “wrong” shoes. It also occurs during major life changes, like braces, voices changing like Peter Brady (shanananana), boobs develop, and acne shows up and never wants to go away (like Sarah Palin). Informing all the other children who the “deadbeats” are doesn’t really enhance the school experience in a positive way.

It’s bad enough that all the children know who receives free lunches. It’s kinda hard to hide that. Labeling some as too broke to eat can scar a child. Forcing them to go hungry is just the cherry you won’t allow them to eat that lies on top of that shit sundae.

This is the United States of America. We’re rich. This is a place where we shouldn’t allow children to go hungry and force them to watch other children eat. I couldn’t watch that. One school employee in Pennsylvania actually quit after she was forced to take a child’s lunch away.

Other people feel the same. John Legend (the musician who has won a ton of Grammys) donated $5,000 to a GoFundMe drive to raise money to pay off school debt in Seattle.

Texas just sent a bill to the governor that will end lunch shaming, despite the attempt by five members of the Texas Freedom Caucus (Republican shit holes) to derail it. A school district in Utah is looking to ban it entirely. New Mexico has done the right thing and is banning the practice of lunch shaming entirely. There’s a bill in Congress to end the practice but it’s very weak as it still allows schools to hand out that cheese sandwich and even starve the child. Not every child will be eating as well as Barron Trump.

I know the current trend right now is to bully people, body-slam reporters, make fun of people who read, and degrade women by their appearance. But can we not bully children? Can we stop adults from branding them as welfare kids?

How about we all try to be a little bit more like John Legend? Let’s be like New Mexico. Feed kids.

But hey, if you can’t cut it in the clubbing-baby-seals business, perhaps you have a future working in a school cafeteria.

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4 comments

  1. I’ve been a teacher for over 40 years. Once in a public school I tried to pay for a kid’s lunch and they refused to allow me to do it. They dumped the kid’s lunch and went to get her a cheese sandwich. I followed the child to the table, gave her my lunch, and left the school. Cruel.

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