School Lunch Is The First Thing The Federal Government Should Pay For…Breakfast Too!
That’s right, we said federal government. It’s something to prioritize before free college, and modernizing America’s nuclear arsenal, and Medicare for all, and bringing back “big fireworks” to Mount Rushmore…
We’ve been spending some time in New England, and we came across this story about how a fairly large school district in the small state of Rhode Island was making kids eat sunflower butter and jelly sandwiches instead of the regular school lunch if they’re behind on paying for their school lunch. (Or rather, their parents are behind.)
But we were kind of shocked, and pleased, when it suddenly became national news. In large part, we think, to a ridiculous layer to the story, where a local business offered to raise the money to make up the difference, and school officials refused.
BTW, the latest is that Chobani, the yogurt company is giving the Warwick School district $50,000 dollars to fix the problem. They’re also going to donate yogurt. Other private donations from around the country should make up the rest of the $77,000 the school district says is in arrears, according to the Providence Journal. And as a result the new “lunch shaming” policy will not go into effect on Monday as scheduled, and not ever we hope.
And while we’ve noticed a lot of people on Twitter quipping that sunflower butter and jelly doesn’t actually sound too bad, first of all that’s not the point. Secondly, these are not healthy, bougie sandwiches. Imagine grout and gelatin with food coloring on a hot dog bun. And kids are going to be bullied and looked down upon if they’re stuck with that sandwich.
And anyway, no kid should go hungry. When we looked into similar situations in school lunchrooms across the country — that didn’t make national news — we were shocked about how small the sums of money were required to make everybody whole. $2,000 here, $7,200 there. Yet according to a story on Vox, “75 percent of school districts had unpaid meal debt”.
With that in mind, it’s pretty clear to us this isn’t an issue of budget mismanagement by a few local school districts. It’s a country-wide problem. And therefore, states or townships shouldn’t be responsible for addressing the problem. And it shouldn’t be left to the goodwill of the public through piecemeal solutions, like crowd-funding. This should be taken care of by the federal government.
Yeah, someone’s going to want to do the math, and they’ll find getting a free lunch to every single elhi student in this country way too wildly expensive to even consider, given that — according to the government — there are 56-million students in K-12 in the U.S. right now, 50-million of them in public schools. New York has nearly 1,000,000 students alone. L.A. has 600,000. Which means even if lunches cost just $1 a day, that’s about $10-billion (based on an average school year of 178 days). At $2 a day, that’s about $20-billion. Not a drop in the bucket, but a tiny fraction on what the federal government spends just to pay the interest on the money it borrows.
And the government wouldn’t necessarily have to foot the bill for all that food, if they’re willing to do the work to make it work. According to the Guardian, about 1/3 of all food produced in the U.S. ends up being thrown out. In dollar terms: $160-billion. We’re not suggesting kids get old, rancid food. Just that the government could work programs in partnership with restaurants and grocery stores and agri-business. Because if just 12% of that surplus food is harnessed and channeled into a federally funded school lunch program, it’ll feed all the kids. (Obviously we’re oversimplifying, and there are other costs aside from the food, but there’s no doubt it would go a long way.)
And of course we don’t expect big (or small) companies to do it out of the goodness of their own hearts. The government could give them tax credits in exchange for participating. And we all know how much this government likes giving out tax breaks.
So how about it? Better, more consistent nutrition gives kids more energy, so they’re stronger and smarter and more engaged too!