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Such Thing As A Free Lunch

Michele from A Small Victory is stirring up a storm over admitting that she once signed her daughter up for free school lunches:

I did not expect the school to feed my child. In fact, I did not know about the free lunch program until a kind friend pointed it out to me. I would have made do by scrounging together a lunch for my kid, but I thought the program was there because they wanted people who needed it to use it while they had to. I didn't ask. I was given.

I don't have a problem with needy families, such as Michele's, who get free lunches at school. I do have a problem with the associated scare-mongerers; those who regard every cut in funding as "dire", "drastic", and "devastating". Take this press release, for example:

A new study prepared by Fiscal Planning Services, Inc. details the devastating impact that the Congressional budget plan would have on state and local budgets, particularly in the areas of health care, education and training, and the environment. The current Congressional budget plan would slash federal aid to state and local governments by $140 billion from 1997 through 2002. [...] "This study provides concrete evidence that the Congress has not actually moderated their plan to balance the federal budget on the backs of working families," said Gerald W. McEntee, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO, which commissioned the study. [...] The impact of these cuts in such states as California and New York would be particularly dire, McEntee said [...] Cuts in funding for education and training would result in the loss of $3.8 billion in grants to school districts for basic skills training for disadvantaged children, and $2.4 billion in cuts to school lunch programs over the next six years.

Well, it's past 2002 now, and kids have made do without going hungry. In fact, they're getting fatter. And the world hasn't ended. You'd think that someone would remind the AFSCME of this next time they paint such a doom-and-gloom picture.

In any case, even Michele admits that without free lunches, she "would have made do". People certainly made do in my school district, where the lone public school didn't provide lunches to anyone, period. Ironically, the school district was too poor to be able to provide hot lunches! The school sold milk (and gave milk free to kids poor enough to qualify), but it didn't have a kitchen. And when a new school was built in 1979 to relieve overcrowding, it too was built without a kitchen.

The woods and farms in the area eventually turned into big expensive houses, and as the district got richer, a kitchen was carved out of the cafeteria of each school. Presumably, hot lunches are still being served today. Yet presumably, parents today are as capable of making lunches as they were 20 years ago. Aren't they?


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