This story is almost a week old. But I'm always either too early or too late, so what the heck:
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, so should we make little Johnny work for his free meal at school? Even if he misses class?
West Virginia state Del. Ray Canterbury (R-Greenbrier) (Bob Bird/AP)
“I think it would be a good idea if perhaps we had the kids work for their lunches: trash to be taken out, hallways to be swept, lawns to be mowed, make them earn it,” said Ray Canterbury, a Republican from Greenbrier and a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, during debate over Senate Bill 663, also known as the Feed to Achieve Act.
The bill — the first of its kind in the nation — would create a partnership between private donations and public funds to make breakfast and lunch available for free to every student, kindergarten through high school senior, in West Virginia. It’s based on a model program in Mason County that’s improved attendance and decreased discipline problems, according to the school district’s food service director.
Free meals are provided through the National School Lunch Program to students whose family’s income is 130 percent or less of the federal poverty guidelines. For this past school year, that means a family of four with an annual income of $29,965 qualifies. Children with household incomes of 185 percent or less of the poverty guidelines can get reduced-price meals under the program, which — I was surprised to learn — was established in 1946 by the National School Lunch Act.
West Virginia’s Feed to Achieve Act wants to go beyond that by making sure no child goes hungry at school, but Canterbury repeated the theme of “there is no such thing as a free lunch” during the delegates’ discussion of the bill, which had passed the state Senate unanimously.Canterbury clarifies his intentions:
Canterbury added that he thinks free lunches will undermine children's work ethics, saying the bill is "teaching students they don't have to work hard."Here's the thing: I think the idea of children being required to help some at schools is a good one. But hardly any child works for his or her lunch in this country, including those who have wealthy parents. So why single out only the children who have poor parents? Good, age-appropriate work habits are something schools should teach all children.
If that teaching is given to only some children the system breeds stigma. It also fails the wealthier children!