Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Lunch Shaming, Pros and Cons

 

The topic of “lunch shaming” has gathered lots of interest on social media. I’m particularly interested since I sit on my local school board. A quick recap: the feds fund lunches for families who qualify (just over half of our families with a total student population of just over 1,300 kids, K-12). The rest of the parents can send a lunch or put money into an account with the cafeteria service. An important thing to note is that kids in the lunch line can’t tell if someone else is getting a free meal or not.

Some other factors: if the free meal population reaches a high enough threshold, the school can provide all meals for free at federal expense. During the summer, the feds fund free meals for entire families. This is a program of which I suspect most people are completely unaware.

The recent issue is with kids not on the free lunch program whose parents let the money in their account run out. Schools typically will have a one- or two-day grace period and then will provide some sort of simpler meal, like a sandwich and an apple. No kids goes under. This practice has become known as “lunch shaming,” and makes lots of people very upset. A recent development has been people going to the cafeteria provider and paying off delinquent accounts. Now that seems like a very nice thing to do but how does the parent learn anything from it? Or, ultimately, the kids?

Anyway, I find the whole thing very strange. A parent can’t get their crap together enough to make sure their kid has a decent lunch, and the publicly funded school system becomes a villain. People’s opinions seem to me to be completely emotional on this. What are your thoughts?

Published in Education, General
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  1. I Walton Member

    The whole thing just follows school centralization. Every public school should be run by the teachers and the parents independently of any overarching bureaucracy. Private schools can do what ever works for them. Once independent some will include lunches in tuition, others will offer it for cash and others will let kids carry lunches, or all three. Parents can choose which school to send their kids to depending on its reputation and academic concentrations not to mention cost. Sounds crazy doesn’t it? New Zealand did this and shortly went from the bottom of the developed world’s schools to just below Singapore. It’s called a market. Markets actually work better than socialism.

    • #1
    • February 26, 2020, at 7:57 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  2. CJ Coolidge
    CJ

    We sent our kids to government school with a dual language program so that they’d have some immersion in Spanish. The school qualified for “free” breakfast for all students. I refused to let the government feed my kids, so every morning I would make them a real breakfast.

    I’ve wised up since then. Now I don’t let the government school my kids either.

    • #2
    • February 26, 2020, at 8:29 AM PST
    • 18 likes
  3. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    I’m more sympathetic to the parents who have to pay but who, in your words, “can’t get their crap together.” I was in this situation briefly. It’s actually quite a nuisance to have to remember to periodically visit some school lunch website portal and put money in the account.

    Back in my youth, as I recall, a school lunch cost 55 cents. I didn’t eat the school lunches. Mom sent me with a sandwich, usually salami. I don’t recall how everyone paid, but it’s easier to remember to give your kid 55 cents each morning. My suspicion is that modern school cafeterias don’t accept cash payment, which makes it more difficult for paying parents.

    • #3
    • February 26, 2020, at 9:43 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  4. Songwriter Member
    Songwriter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I’m more sympathetic to the parents who have to pay but who, in your words, “can’t get their crap together.” I was in this situation briefly. It’s actually quite a nuisance to have to remember to periodically visit some school lunch website portal and put money in the account.

    Back in my youth, as I recall, a school lunch cost 55 cents. I didn’t eat the school lunches. Mom sent me with a sandwich, usually salami. I don’t recall how everyone paid, but it’s easier to remember to give your kid 55 cents each morning. My suspicion is that modern school cafeterias don’t accept cash payment, which makes it more difficult for paying parents.

    School lunches were 50 cents when I was in high school. My parents kept a jar of dimes in the kitchen*. We kids were expected to grab our lunch money from the jar or make our own lunch for school. So, it was on us if we ate. I never missed a meal. (And it shows to this day!)

    * Why dimes? Because my dad had a coin-op “horse ride” at his store that ran on dimes. That horse ride paid for five kids’ lunches for years. Dad once told me it was one of his smartest purchases.

    • #4
    • February 26, 2020, at 9:57 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  5. Freeven Member
    Freeven Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tex929rr: A recent development has been people going to the cafeteria provider and paying off delinquent accounts. Now that seems like a very nice thing to do but how does the parent learn anything from it? And ultimately the kids?

    Trust me, they are learning from it. And it’s not a lesson we want them to learn.

    • #5
    • February 26, 2020, at 10:05 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  6. BeatFeet Member

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    It’s actually quite a nuisance to have to remember to periodically visit some school lunch website portal and put money in the account

    Really? I can’t think of anything simpler than sitting on my can of lard and making an on-line payment every so often.

     

    • #6
    • February 26, 2020, at 10:07 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  7. MarciN Member

    I think it is a really big mistake to humiliate the children. These issues should be worked out among the adults.

    • #7
    • February 26, 2020, at 10:11 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  8. Full Size Tabby Member

    CJ (View Comment):

    We sent our kids to government school with a dual language program so that they’d have some immersion in Spanish. The school qualified for “free” breakfast for all students. I refused to let the government feed my kids, so every morning I would make them a real breakfast.

    I’ve wised up since then. Now I don’t let the government school my kids either.

    A couple of decades ago the concept of “free” breakfast first came up at the schools where we then lived. One school board member put up quite an impressive fight against accepting federal government money for breakfasts because of the negative effect on the family (encouraging children to spend even less time with parents). The school board member argued that if the school wanted to get into the business of helping to feed children breakfast, it would be better to develop programs to teach parents how to make fast cheap nutritious like oatmeal from bulk rolled oats. I was pleased that the school board member’s position received a lot of support in the community, but ultimately the school board succumbed to the siren call of “free federal money.”

    At about the same time, the regional newspaper published a feel good story about how all five children from a “poor” ethnic minority family (married parents but both working in unskilled labor) had become “successful” high status professionals (doctors, lawyers, scientist). The literary hook for the story was the question whether there was “magic” in the porridge the mother prepared for the family every morning. As I read the article, I thought the clear answer was that the “magic” was simply that the mother prepared the porridge each morning. Just by preparing the porridge to ensure that the children were physically prepared for school, the mother was communicating to the children how important they were and how important their education was. 

    • #8
    • February 26, 2020, at 10:56 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  9. SecondBite Member

    Why should the schools feed kids at all? That’s what parents are for.

    • #9
    • February 26, 2020, at 2:03 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  10. Limestone Cowboy Member
    Limestone Cowboy Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    @tex929rr, I’m baffled by the need for any such programs. Correct me if I’m wrong on this, but my understanding is that the so called food stamp program is now a cash payment to an EBT card which first functions like a debit card. Assuming that the cash payment is sufficient to cover basic nutritional requirements for the family, why not just link the parents EBT account to a school payment system. And just how expensive is a homemade school lunch anyway?

    I think this and other similar programs infantilize parents. Feeding your kids is a prime responsibility of parents, and learning to budget your EBT account is a part of a vital parenting skill.

    I recognize that there are some parents who are either incapable or unwilling to take responsibility. It would be best to treat these special cases as special, taking care of the kids humanely, without normalizing bad parenting.

     

    • #10
    • February 26, 2020, at 2:41 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  11. Limestone Cowboy Member
    Limestone Cowboy Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    SecondBite (View Comment):

    Why should the schools feed kids at all? That’s what parents are for.

    Yep.

    • #11
    • February 26, 2020, at 2:46 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  12. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr

    Limestone Cowboy (View Comment):

    @tex929rr, I’m baffled by the need for any such programs. Correct me if I’m wrong on this, but my understanding is that the so called food stamp program is now a cash payment to an EBT card which first functions like a debit card. Assuming that the cash payment is sufficient to cover basic nutritional requirements for the family, why not just link the parents EBT account to a school payment system. And just how expensive is a homemade school lunch anyway?

    I think this and other similar programs infantilize parents. Feeding your kids is a prime responsibility of parents, and learning to budget your EBT account is a part of a vital parenting skill.

    I recognize that there are some parents who are either incapable or unwilling to take responsibility. It would be best to treat these special cases as special, taking care of the kids humanely, without normalizing bad parenting.

     

    Nor do I, but they have existed for a long time and schools will naturally work within the system. Free .gov money. As far as EBT cards, the Texas ones are used at point of sale but not for cash. There are apparently long developed black markets that trade cash for goods purchased with EBT cards at a discount, so cardholders can indeed get cash with a little bit more work.

    • #12
    • February 26, 2020, at 3:02 PM PST
    • Like
  13. Susan Quinn Contributor

    I suspect that most people who call for these services don’t know that federally funded programs are using their money.

    • #13
    • February 27, 2020, at 7:38 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  14. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    BeatFeet (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    It’s actually quite a nuisance to have to remember to periodically visit some school lunch website portal and put money in the account

    Really? I can’t think of anything simpler than sitting on my can of lard and making an on-line payment every so often.

     

    Well, the “every so often” is the problem. I find it hard to remember to do things on an irregular schedule.

    • #14
    • February 27, 2020, at 8:17 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  15. SecondBite Member

    Limestone Cowboy (View Comment):

    SecondBite (View Comment):

    Why should the schools feed kids at all? That’s what parents are for.

    Yep.

    Though I must admit, when I was in High School, they sold these amazing, giant slices of coffee cake with delicious crumbly topping that remain, fifty years later, the standard by which all coffee cake is measured. My sister and her best friend developed a tradition of regularly buying a piece of coffee cake and a Coke for a snack and both mothers were surprised by the cavity count that year. My folks would not have given us money for such things, so we both were surreptitiously raiding the change bowl on top of the refrigerator. It is such a fond memory that I made sure we had a change bowl on top of the refrigerator for my kids. I am afraid, however, that inflation deprived it of much of its utility.

    Corruption and rotting teeth; yay school!

    • #15
    • February 27, 2020, at 10:08 AM PST
    • Like
  16. Jager Coolidge
    Jager Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tex929rr: Now that seems like a very nice thing to do but how does the parent learn anything from it? Or, ultimately, the kids?

    What are they supposed to learn? People who don’t have to pay get “quality” meals (provided by their or their parents tax money) but people who are behind on payments but do ultimately pay get poor quality meals? 

    Maybe the answer to this is anybody who does not pay, whether on “free meals” or behind on payments gets the same lower quality lunch. 

     

    • #16
    • February 27, 2020, at 10:22 AM PST
    • 1 like
  17. Samuel Block Member

    MarciN (View Comment):

    I think it is a really big mistake to humiliate the children. These issues should be worked out among the adults.

    I don’t know that this humiliated children though. It’ll annoy them, and their tummy will groan about it all the way home. The thing that worries me most is that people are underestimating the resiliency of children to such an extent that it will smothered, and eventually obliterated.

    • #17
    • February 27, 2020, at 10:36 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  18. GrannyDude Member

    I have always thought that the schools could either not “do” lunch at all, so that bringing lunch from home becomes the default expectation for kids and parents (as it is in many private schools) or that the schools should provide nothing but a sandwich, an apple, and a carton of milk. Don’t even need to vary the sandwich filling. There’s nothing wrong with a plain peanut-butter or cheese sandwich on wheat bread. It’s wholesome, nutritious, easily stored and deployed, and boring, which is what school lunch should be. A good incentive for kids to bring lunch instead. 

     

    The more the school/government does, the less parents/families or even kids themselves believe to be their responsibility and their prerogative. 

    • #18
    • February 27, 2020, at 10:44 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  19. Petty Boozswha Member

    I grew up before food stamps and remember the shame of eating a ketchup sandwich in front of my classmates. This is one of the most asinine policies that makes me want to vote for Bernie Sanders – we are a rich country, we probably spend far more trying to collect and account for these fees than we receive, and the costs versus the benefits of providing all children a healthy meal are more positive than spending on probably any other program. School lunches should be free.

    • #19
    • February 27, 2020, at 12:38 PM PST
    • Like
  20. Dominique Prynne Inactive

    This is an adult issue. But how do you compel the parents to act right without impacting the child?

    My “nephew” is a kid from the ghetto part of town. My sister took him in during high school as he attended school with my niece. (Think “The Blind Side” but with asthma and no hope of a multi-million dollar NFL contract – I need to write about him some time – it’s an inspiring story). Listening to my nephew, food in his house was rare and when stocked, his mom and his older brothers were very territorial over the food. He often got the last hand full of pizza rolls from the rolls prepared, or was threatened by his older siblings if he ate “their” cereal etc. He would hoard a box or two of the off-brand mac and cheese and try to cook it when no one was around so it wouldn’t get taken from him by his brothers or he be left with just the last few bites. A full meal at school was a lifeline for him. His mother would not provide any money or sign the forms for him to get free meals – a school counselor would certify him as a hardship case. Obviously, the type of attitude displayed by his mother was entrenched well before the school lunchroom issues. I just don’t know how you combat a parental attitude like that without making the child defensive of their parent or having the school look like the villain. For what it’s worth, his mom worked nights as a CNA at a nursing home so she was working a difficult job for low pay. Mom made poor choices. All of my nephew’s siblings have other dads, most of whom have done jail time. I guess it can be very “law of the jungle” in the ghetto, even inside a home it seems. I get the big picture of wanting parents to take responsibility, but I am thankful during those years that my nephew had access to hot, varied meals.

    • #20
    • February 27, 2020, at 1:18 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  21. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr

    Jager (View Comment):

    Tex929rr: Now that seems like a very nice thing to do but how does the parent learn anything from it? Or, ultimately, the kids?

    What are they supposed to learn? People who don’t have to pay get “quality” meals (provided by their or their parents tax money) but people who are behind on payments but do ultimately pay get poor quality meals?

    Maybe the answer to this is anybody who does not pay, whether on “free meals” or behind on payments gets the same lower quality lunch.

     

    The hope is that the parent will learn that there are consequences, as does the child through, unfortunately no fault of his or her own. One thing to throw in the mix is that kids often buy stuff for their friends using their own account money. How could a parent see that coming?

    • #21
    • February 27, 2020, at 2:46 PM PST
    • Like
  22. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr

    Petty Boozswha (View Comment):

    I grew up before food stamps and remember the shame of eating a ketchup sandwich in front of my classmates. This is one of the most asinine policies that makes me want to vote for Bernie Sanders – we are a rich country, we probably spend far more trying to collect and account for these fees than we receive, and the costs versus the benefits of providing all children a healthy meal are more positive than spending on probably any other program. School lunches should be free.

    We were at all day meeting yesterday with the administrators and two board members, and we talked about this topic during a break. The other board member grew up in our small town and told me how the lunch cashier would always tell him he was paid up, and that only years later he realized she was covering for him. He said “that’s when I realized I was poor”. He is 51 or 52.

    • #22
    • February 27, 2020, at 2:50 PM PST
    • 1 like
  23. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr

    Dominique Prynne (View Comment):

    This is an adult issue. But how do you compel the parents to act right without impacting the child?

    My “nephew” is a kid from the ghetto part of town. My sister took him in during high school as he attended school with my niece. (Think “The Blind Side” but with asthma and no hope of a multi-million dollar NFL contract – I need to write about him some time – it’s an inspiring story). Listening to my nephew, food in his house was rare and when stocked, his mom and his older brothers were very territorial over the food. He often got the last hand full of pizza rolls from the rolls prepared, or was threatened by his older siblings if he ate “their” cereal etc. He would hoard a box or two of the off-brand mac and cheese and try to cook it when no one was around so it wouldn’t get taken from him by his brothers or he be left with just the last few bites. A full meal at school was a lifeline for him. His mother would not provide any money or sign the forms for him to get free meals – a school counselor would certify him as a hardship case. Obviously, the type of attitude displayed by his mother was entrenched well before the school lunchroom issues. I just don’t know how you combat a parental attitude like that without making the child defensive of their parent or having the school look like the villain. For what it’s worth, his mom worked nights as a CNA at a nursing home so she was working a difficult job for low pay. Mom made poor choices. All of my nephew’s siblings have other dads, most of whom have done jail time. I guess it can be very “law of the jungle” in the ghetto, even inside a home it seems. I get the big picture of wanting parents to take responsibility, but I am thankful during those years that my nephew had access to hot, varied meals.

    Definitely. And unfortunately, people who make poor choices are often completely unaware of it. And the kids will bear much of the pain. I suppose this problem with school lunches isn’t unique but it seems to bring out visceral reactions in a lot of people.

    • #23
    • February 27, 2020, at 2:52 PM PST
    • Like
  24. The Reticulator Member

    Petty Boozswha (View Comment):

    I grew up before food stamps and remember the shame of eating a ketchup sandwich in front of my classmates. This is one of the most asinine policies that makes me want to vote for Bernie Sanders – we are a rich country, we probably spend far more trying to collect and account for these fees than we receive, and the costs versus the benefits of providing all children a healthy meal are more positive than spending on probably any other program. School lunches should be free.

    I’f you can’t learn to handle the shame of eating a ketchup sandwich, where are you going to develop the strength of character to stand up to the hate media or wear a MAGA cap in public? 

    • #24
    • February 27, 2020, at 9:01 PM PST
    • 1 like
  25. Petty Boozswha Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Petty Boozswha (View Comment):

    I grew up before food stamps and remember the shame of eating a ketchup sandwich in front of my classmates. This is one of the most asinine policies that makes me want to vote for Bernie Sanders – we are a rich country, we probably spend far more trying to collect and account for these fees than we receive, and the costs versus the benefits of providing all children a healthy meal are more positive than spending on probably any other program. School lunches should be free.

    I’f you can’t learn to handle the shame of eating a ketchup sandwich, where are you going to develop the strength of character to stand up to the hate media or wear a MAGA cap in public?

    You’re right – that’s why I turned out to be a RINO squish.

    • #25
    • February 27, 2020, at 9:12 PM PST
    • 1 like
  26. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    BeatFeet (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    It’s actually quite a nuisance to have to remember to periodically visit some school lunch website portal Tput money in the account

    Really? I can’t think of anything simpler than sitting on my can of lard and making an on-line payment every so often.

     

    Well, the “every so often” is the problem. I find it hard to remember to do things on an irregular schedule.

    That’s what the calendar app on your phone is for, it really comes in handy too.

     

    • #26
    • February 28, 2020, at 2:43 AM PST
    • Like
  27. Chris Member

    Petty Boozswha (View Comment):

    I grew up before food stamps and remember the shame of eating a ketchup sandwich in front of my classmates. This is one of the most asinine policies that makes me want to vote for Bernie Sanders – we are a rich country, we probably spend far more trying to collect and account for these fees than we receive, and the costs versus the benefits of providing all children a healthy meal are more positive than spending on probably any other program. School lunches should be free.

    Many school districts find the cost of administering to be more than just providing the food – I think Dallas famously went this route a few years ago.

    That said, I feel we do ourselves no favors by using the word “free”. The food is not free – its costs have been included in “the bill” paid by the taxpayers.

     

    • #27
    • February 28, 2020, at 5:04 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  28. Dill Coolidge

    I was in elementary school recently, and if you were behind on lunch payments, if you forgot your lunch, if you forgot to sign up for lunch during morning lunch count, or if you couldn’t stomach whatever was being served, you got a cup-of-noodles, and maybe some pre-packaged food such as apple slices or yogurt that had been left over from a previous day’s hot lunch.

    I don’t remember this ever being a big deal. I think it was just understood among the staff and fellow students that everybody forgot their lunch or their lunch money sometimes, so I don’t remember anybody getting teased about it.

    It wasn’t embarrassing, either, or at least not very much. It happened to me a few times (All my fault, not my parents’!), and it’s barely a blip on the radar when it comes to embarrassing moments from school. I know I occasionally brought cup of noodles to school for lunch, and never was concerned about being mistaken for somebody who had forgotten their lunch. Maybe if somebody was eating cup-of-noodles for lunch for days, it would be an issue, but that’s an issue bigger than a student being embarrassed. I even remember multiple students talking openly about check processing problems and other processing issues that prevented them from eating school lunches for a few days.

    I think my school had a healthy attitude. Make a mistake? No biggie, here’s the emergency backup lunch. Nobody was shamed, but it wasn’t anybody’s favorite.

    • #28
    • February 28, 2020, at 9:42 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  29. Samuel Block Member

    Whoops. Posted something on the wrong thread.

    • #29
    • February 28, 2020, at 2:45 PM PST
    • Like