I’m all for free undergraduate college education. After all, it has the potential to be a valuable investment in our country’s future and it sounds great coming from politicians begging for the vote of the first time voters and parents sending kids to college. Heck, it even sounds awesome to me and may encourage me to pursue another undergraduate degree instead of a Master’s.
But, if I’m going to be honest, what I really want to be part of the education conversation, is regulation to provide free school lunches for all children in public schools. I’m tired of hearing these horrific stories of schools punishing children by withholding meals because of parental inability to pay for whatever reason, or simple adult carelessness. It breaks my heart to think of a child being singled out and recognized for not having money for food.
My beautiful daughter is in second grade at a public school. On the way home from school on Thursday, she shared with me, children at her school who run out of funds in their lunch account, are given a hand stamp that looks like a person holding up empty hands. The stamp allows everyone to know quickly the student doesn’t have money for food. My daughter felt horrible for her friend who “earned” her first stamp. She was so concerned at her friend’s distress and shock at discovering she was unable to eat, that my daughter got caught trying to sneak her friend food from her own home lunch. My daughter was angry and would not understand the adult logic of why she couldn’t share food with someone whom she cares about and who was in pain. Especially since neither her nor her friend have food allergies. She remained angry the rest of the day about these adult rules of safety and punishment. Thankfully their teacher had some snacks, of which she purchases with her own money, to help kids who don’t bring snacks for snack period. Her friend was able to eat something during the long school day. But it definitely would not be enough to remove the feeling of hunger and shame.
Sure, a free college education sounds awesome. Lord knows, I wish I had a free college education instead of the mountain of loans I will take to the grave with me. But as a single mom, recently recovered from the chains of divorce induced poverty, struggling to make sure my daughter never suffers the shame and pain of public hunger, what would excite me and possibly effect my vote, is free lunches for all children in public schools. Primary education is a necessity. It is a basic human right. Our laws of child welfare even DEMAND children attend some form of education, be it registered home schooling, public or private education. Our laws should also DEMAND food be provided for all children REGARDLESS of the economic or emotional status of their parents.
Any parent knows a hungry child is inconsolable, and incapable of ignoring the gnawing in their belly. Expecting a child to learn and behave when they are singled out and branded as a child too ‘broke” to eat REGARDLESS of the situation, is unreasonable.
Primary education is a NEED and an absolute INVESTMENT in the future of our nation. Neither the inability to pay for food nor the drama of adult distractions should be a barrier to a child learning on a full stomach.
Why are none of the politicians advocating for free school lunches for all public schools across the nation?