EducationWorld rounds up heated online arguments regarding key school issues. This week,a new policy governing lunch payments in a New Jersey school district is the target of fierce debate.
In an attempt to cut into a $50,000 bill the Willingboro School District incurred last year to feed children who could not pay for their meals, and whose parents did not apply for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program, school employees were instructed to throw away any meal served to a child whose account contained insufficient funds. The new policy did not impact students already enrolled in the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program.
A reader going by the handle “Buster” thought the problem wasn’t in the policy or the parents, but rather with the application for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program:
“You can't blame the child. Maybe the parents figure they would be rejected for the free/reduced lunch program. They need to update the form. Instead of just asking about your income, they need to question your bills and what monies you actually have left. Just like almost all the programs designed to help people, the ones who really need it never get it. [These are] the people who try but make too much money to receive any help, yet don't make enough to live on.”
“Drastkmeasur” sympathizes with the students, but also sees the district’s plight:
“This is a crappy situation... for the kids. Ultimately, they're the ones that suffer. I don't know if there is a good or right answer for this, but it breaks my heart to think of a kid having to go hungry. For some, this may be the only meal they get all day.
“One thing people are failing to consider is that hungry students will not do well in school. You are, as that saying goes, cutting off your nose to spite your face. With focus on quality education and improvement in schools, there is no way you are getting anything out of a hungry, miserable kid. It will become a problem for the teachers to have to deal with these students, and guess who takes the ultimate responsibility for their performance? The teachers... not the school board implementing this policy.
“Here's a better way to handle this. Feed the kids. Keep track of what they owe and just like schools do now for kids who lose textbooks, don't return sports equipment etc., do not let them participate in extracurricular activities, or receive their report cards/promotion to next grade until the bill is paid. This keeps the kids fed and keeps their focus on school. I bet you get more families settling their debt with the fear of their kids not being able to participate in school activities or move on to the next grade. Also saves the kid from the embarrassment of being publicly humiliated by having staff take their lunch and throw it out...”
“Nj.com” takes offense at the thought of throwing the meal away if a student cannot pay for it:
“Lunch account? I don't remember those. We either brought our lunch or had money to buy it. Feed the kid that one time and bill the parent. But don't throw away the food in front of the kid, or they'll feel they're worth less than garbage. That's just cruel.”
Despite recognizing the fact that some students may go hungry, user “getagrip” sides with the policy:
“At the risk of being politically incorrect. I essentially agree.
Although I still retain sufficient compassion to believe the child should be fed, it is time to go after the parents. We tend to ignore any sense of people having to be responsible for the care of their own children and create excuses for them. We then come up with program after program putting the onus onto society in general for caring and raising the children of irresponsible parents.”
Comparing a school cafeteria to other locations that accept payment for food, “stshskt” puts the onus on parents for ensuring that student meal accounts have sufficient funds:
“School cafeterias have just as much a right to ask for payment of food up front as any McDonald’s does. Poor students have food available to them through food stamps and meal programs. Irresponsible parents who send their kids to school with no food and no money are to blame, not the school.”