Solving Government’s Bad Attitude About Lunch Bills by Replacing Parents with Government


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.

Please consider a voluntary, tax-deductible subscription to keep the Current growing and free.

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.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    If they can’t manage lunch money, something must be very bad at home; and it is not the kid’s fault. I wouldn’t want to have to explain to my daughter why she couldn’t sit with the cool kids at lunch. Lunch shaming seems so cruel that it must be intentional.

    • ShannonEntropy

      The overall debt in Warwick is $40,000. And put yer wallet away, Rhett… the school committee actually *refused* a $1,000 private donation !!

      Luckily today’s ProJo is reporting that the Chobani Yogurt Co.® is donating $50,000. That one they accepted. Prior, they were gonna raid the teacher’s pension fund to pay it… Go, school committee !! Stick it to those parasite Leachers Teachers !!

      630AM’s Tara Granahan had a Prov teacher’s union head on the other day. She explained how even the “free lunch kids” can run up debt. Apparently not all items available to the free lunch kids are free. Stuff like desserts & ice cream & candy cost extra. The kids ‘charge it’ to their accts

      Tara told a story about how her kid uses what is basically a student/ school debit card to buy lunch. She got a call that her son had a big deficit; he blew thru a month’s worth of lunch money in a week.
      The kid was buying all the cute girls in his class ice cream !! [ This is classic “beta” or even “omega” male behavior… that kid’s got a dismal social / sex life ahead of him fer shur. But I digress… ]

    • bagida’wewinini

      Hi Rhett. I hope that those who tried to get the students to buy their lunches did not set out to embarrass them but rather to change the incentive to those who care for the kids. I would join you in paying for the kids who need nutritional support but I would prefer to do so through a government run program along with all other taxpayers including the deep pockets dark money radicals who may fund this Freedom for the Prosperous organization.

      • ShannonEntropy

        That does it !!

        I just donated $500 thanks to your snarky comments. My money isn’t “dark” it’s just green

        Okay I may be “prosperous” but that’s really beside the point

        • bagida’wewinini

          You do what you think is right and I’ll do the same. Too bad yours is not making sure kids maybe living near you are getting enough nutrition

          • ShannonEntropy

            It’s *my* job to make sure kids I never even met — but pay over a grand a month in property taxes to educate —
            are fed ??

            If their parents cannot afford to feed them they shouldn’t have had them

            If the parents aren’t feeding them what other dereliction of parental responsibilities are they committing ??

            Those parents should be stripped of their parental rights and the kids placed in Foster care, where then my State tax dollars will feed them

  • Rhett Hardwick

    having had time to catch a talk show or two, I find there is more to this story than I understood. I guess no one actually goes without lunch. If this is another misunderstanding, I am still in favor of choking. Carthago delenda est.

    My frame of reference. When I was a kid my parents were more interested in a big slug of land than school districts. So, I ended up in a primary school with a large number of immigrants (European extraction. The did not take ESL, they learned English and could be seen about town translating for their parents). For lunch, we did not have a “menu”, we had lunch, and it was cash. Lunch was American Chop Suey once a week, and I recall meatball sandwiches on Thursdays. I don’t recall any deaths from allergies. There were some kids who “brought lunch”. They were brown baggers and sat by themselves (I don’t believe that was required, as I understand it now is). Being kids, I am not sure how we understood this, I think we understood that they were “poor”. I have no idea how they “turned out”. I understand from talk shows, lunch is $2.50, 12.50 per week. For two parents, with two kids and working near minimum wage, that might be a strain.

    I can recall lending each other “lunch money” because some other expense had arisen. Sometimes kids would “incur an expense” on the way to school and do without lunch.

    • bagida’wewinini

      Rhett. I was one of the poor kids that brought lunch to school. I had no idea what it meant but I do know that I really didn’t enjoy calf tongue sandwiches. I envied the kids with baloney on white bread. It was a while before I appreciated my mother’s homemade bread but never that tongue. Never wanted to lick anything that licked you back but of course that was before puberty But I was feed and cared for. I liked your first comment. Let’s feed the kids

      • Rhett Hardwick

        “Rhett. I was one of the poor kids that brought lunch to school.”
        That brings something to mind. I can’t recall when, but I think it was also primary school, I went to two; we had metal “lunch boxes” and we all brought lunch to school. The “lunch box” had a thermos and was usually decorated with a “comic” or cowboy character. Maybe we could bring that back, it would solve “dietary issues”. Funny the things you remember, I had a “gym teacher” with only one eye. Only recently, I learned he had landed at Normandy, had an eye blown out and laid on the beach most of a day before they realized he wasn’t dead.

    • ShannonEntropy

      In Warwick if the kids can’t pay they are given a free lunch — FREE! bagida — the main part of which is a “sunbutter” sandwich [ that’s a peanut-butter-like goop made from hypoallergenic sunflower seeds to avoid the peanut butter allergies all these wimpy kids have these days ]

      The sunbutter sammy ID’s the kid as poor.
      Oh, the *horror* !! Oh the *SHAME** !!

      Get a grip people !!

      • Rhett Hardwick

        Sorry, Shannon. I cannot agree with state action that “stamps” a kid as poor, anymore than I can approve of the Nazis forcing Jews to wear a star.
        Peanut Allergies. As a kid, I visited relatives near the Planter’s main plant in Virginia. I watched trains being in peanuts, 100 boxcars at a time. I sometimes wonder how people weren’t dying by the thousands.

        • ShannonEntropy

          Going to grade school I often felt shame cuz my parents couldn’t provide me with the stuff the rich
          kids got

          It made me want to climb out of that poverty. I actually owe my parents

          … if not for that desire to get ahead,
          I prolly wouldn’t have been able to retire in my 50s

  • Christopher C. Reed

    Ah, memories…our lunch staple was the PBJ sandwich, on whole wheat bread, ’cause Mom was a fan of Adele Davis, bless her heart. Which was better than anything involving ‘American’ cheese. There was an impromptu schoolyard stock market in apples, oranges, bananas, & cookies. Everybody was always long cookies, short produce.

    Once a week or so we would slip out to the market, where the deli guy would cut a hard roll in half, slice some salami onto it, and presto! The Italian sandwich. With a dill pickle, all for 16 cents.

  • Monique Chartier

    … not to mention that this never had anything to do with the financial means of the families involved/”shamed”. If that were the case, they would have simply been enrolled in the free lunch program, which this kerfuffle does not involve.

    • ShannonEntropy

      Do you even bother to read anything I write ??

      I already explained how The Free Lunch kids wracked up debt by buying items like desserts ice cream & candy that are included in what they get for “free”

      So enrolling someone in the freebies program dozen solve the prablem

  • BasicCaruso

    Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!