It appears that another embarrassing Rhode Island story has captured the imagination of the nation: Lunch shaming, or giving students a minimal meal when their parents have built up a tab for school lunches. Locally, the topic has been around for quite a while; it was a topic in one of my podcasts from April 2017.
In a nutshell, my take was to suggest that we’ve lost our way if we’re having public policy debates about how school districts should deal with parents who are deadbeats when it comes to lunch money. I mean, can you imagine a private school shaming their customers’ children over a $5 lunch tab? The whole attitude is different, even to the point of seeing students and their families as customers rather than something more like wards or even burdens.
The expansion of that attitude rears its head in a policy proposal that is making its way through Rhode Island’s brain trust:
[Elizabeth Burke Bryant of RI Kids Count] is advocating for the approval of a community eligibility provision which would provide free and reduced lunches to all students and avoid singling out children based on their family’s finances.
The community eligibility provision, which is part of Governor Gina Raimondo’s proposed budget, would provide free meals for all students within districts that have a large percentage of low-income families.
The unhealthy perspective engendered by big government has had the unhappy consequence of shaming children. The solution, we’re told, is to expand government further into the role of parents, thus expanding the reach of the big-government attitude. This will have consequences for Rhode Island families that can be as disastrous, in aggregate, as they are unmeasurable.
Providing for your children is part of what makes parenthood worthwhile. Packing a lunch with love is one of the most straightforward and basic expressions of that responsibility.
Go away, big government. Let us be families.
The dynamic is reminiscent of the argument that government schools have to instruct all children according to the state’s beliefs about sex because some minority of parents will do a poor job educating their own children. In the case of school lunches, statists don’t want to single out children who need help funding lunch, so they’re going to edge in on the relationship of most parents and their children.