Southern Kids

Healthy_Hunger_Free_Kids_ActYou’d think that adult persons, competent enough to be employed by the Detroit News, would know better than to let their jealousy of the younger generation be on blatant display. You’d be wrong. Richie Rich is getting a free lunch. Oh, no!

Check this out: A new federal program plans to give every student in qualifying schools two free meals and snack. Every student, regardless of income. Even those who don’t normally qualify for free/reduced meals. Proponents of the program say this will help erase the “stigma” of getting free food when other classmates pay for their lunches (or bring their own). Is that a good enough reason to spend billions of dollars feeding kids who aren’t hungry?

“Kids who aren’t hungry?” Who ever heard of such a thing? But, the source of this question, Ingrid Jacques, has a point. Erasing a “stigma” is a minor consideration, compared to the benefit of improving nutritional standards in all school lunches, streamlining the lunch line and saving parents the trouble of declaring their income and their net worth on paper-work there aren’t enough days in the school year to verify. Besides, the program is for districts in which a majority of residents, as determined by the census and the Department of Commerce, are poor. If there’s some Richie Rich living among them and attending public school, good on him.

You can find all the specifics about the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, which was passed by the last rational Congress and signed into law by the President in December of 2010 –i.e. after the disastrous election, when nobody was paying attention to good things accomplished — on the Department of Agriculture web site . According to a story in the San Francisco Chronicle,

With much fanfare, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. But unless your children attend one of the 1,250 schools that applied for and won an award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s HealthierUS Schools Challenge, they might graduate before seeing its benefits.

That’s because final implementation won’t be complete until 2014, by which time the program will be paid for by phasing out the subsidies enjoyed by everyone who buys a lunch, costing our federal government $2.72, for as little as $1.70 now. Check with your school board to see if its one of the 1,250.
While I fully agree with Marion Nestle that

Successful school food makes the political personal. The cooks cook. They know the students’ names. They make it clear that they care about what the kids eat. They are invariably backed up by a principal committed to the belief that what kids eat affects their health and learning.

The USDA is trying to make it easier for schools to serve healthier meals. Write your congressional representatives to support the proposed school food standards.

My take on this comes from a slightly different direction. What the Obama Administration is doing here is what our friend, Warren Stephens, the Lord of Little Rock, objects to: our federal government is taking over the “allocation of credit,” deciding who gets how much money, when and for what. The middle men are being shut out whenever our federal government makes a direct grant of money, whether it’s in the form of pension payments, or doctor bill payments, or student tuition payments or nursing home payments. And it’s true, there’s no reason why private, rather than our premier public corporation, couldn’t/shouldn’t be doing that. The problem is that, all too often, as our experiment with private corporations managing health care funds clearly demonstrates, not only does the profit motive trump the quality of the good or service, but making the users of the good or service prove themselves “worthy” of even getting the good or service always raises its ugly head. Ms. Jacques phrases it as a moral imperative:

That money should go to children who need it. Period.

As if money were edible! Period.


Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."