Letter: What role should schools play in nutrition?
School lunches used to be just 25 cents, 3 cents for milk and, if you were lucky, a nickel for an ice cream sandwich. Man, the world has changed since I was a kid. Today, a school lunch in Gloucester runs I guess about two bucks and the debate nationally is how to fund it and what do we do with those who cannot afford lunch and those who abuse our kindness.
In our economic times, where fewer choose to have children and those whose children are grown pay more and more to educate others, school boards such as Willingboro, N.J., have chosen to rethink education’s role in nutrition. Should schools feed everyone, often twice a day? Should this cost even be part of a school’s budget? Maybe not.
Willingboro waits to see if the child can pay and, if not, dumps the meal in the trash in a very wasteful and cruel act. But they are making a statement. Some schools give the child a cheese sandwich and an IOU. Better, but probably fixes nothing. I am not an expert; so what would work?
I like the idea of restructuring the process to one meal, no choices, at a fixed price. This costs less and, if a child needs or just wants something else, brown bag it. For those of you who weren’t born in the ’40s or ’50s, that means bring your own. Lunch is about nutrition, not choices or rights or morals or anything else.
Determine whether the child can pay up front before being served. This saves food and treats everyone with respect. Those who really cannot afford lunch, I would prefer this to be handled by Social Services and funds given to the schools once need is determined. Those who just show up and expect to be fed should go home hungry. No one ever died from missing lunch.
A school teacher friend once told me a parent (loose term) showed up at their school, dropped the child off and said "I don’t have money for lunch today. Will you pay for it?" To which the teacher said no. The parent replied "That’s O.K. You’ll feed her anyway."
This is what’s wrong with the system. Or, as I love to say, "No good deed goes unpunished."