Every Child Should Have Lunch

school-lunchBefore you begin to read this, I want you to know that this is an opinion piece.  I was angered by these articles, and felt compelled to write my thoughts down.  I have added the links to two articles discussing the same topic: food being taken away from children at school. Apparently the school was having a problem with parents not paying for their children’s meal plans. After failed collection attempts, the school decided that the best way to deal with the situation was to allow all the children to go through the lunch line and get their lunch, then go through the cafeteria and take the food away from the children with outstanding balances. When I read this, I was so taken aback that I didn’t even know what aspect of the story pissed me off more.

Schools should take matters up with parents, not kids.

First of all, as principal of a school your main concern should be the welfare of your students, period. With that being the case, how on Earth could a principal make the decision to take food out of the hands and mouths of students? It doesn’t even seem legal, let alone a morally sound decision. Maybe you could argue that it was a financially based decision, but the school served the food and then threw it away. So it was a big waste of food and money. If they were truly concerned about the money, they should have stopped the children from going through the lunch line in the first place, but then we’d still have the problem of kids not eating.

My second issue, especially with the second article, is that the focus seems to be on the humiliation the children experienced. I’m very sure that the kids were thoroughly embarrassed by having their food taken away from them in front of all their peers. And I completely agree that a school should never make a point by humiliating its students. However, I think the bigger issue is that the kids went hungry for the rest of the day. Why did neither article mention the cruelty of leaving children hungry? I don’t know about you, but I feel that hunger trumps humiliation any day.

It’s happening more than we think.

Finally, I’m appalled that this is not an isolated incident. The particular school these articles are talking about is in Utah. But the second article mentions that a school district in New Jersey has sent letters to parents threatening to do the same thing. And these are just the states in the articles; it’s becoming a nation wide problem. It baffles me that schools can’t seem to come up with a better way to get parents’ attention. Could they not simply withhold report cards, or ban the kids from field trips until the parents paid the balances? Why do the students have to starve?! No matter what way you look at it, this is a horrible situation. I truly hope these school officials get their acts together and stop punishing their students for the parents’ mistakes.

**Since writing this, the problem hasn’t stopped.  However, it is getting more attention.  I am proud to say that my state, Illinois, has recently passed a law prohibiting lunch shaming.  It’s unfortunate that this sort of common sense compassion needs a law to be had. But at least people are starting to care.**