Thursday, June 4, 2015

Cafeteria Worker Fired for Slipping Free Lunch to a Poor and Hungry First-Grader

Recognizing the reporter’s phone number that lighted up my dashboard, I let the call go to voice mail. Think first, speak later, especially when talking to the media.  So, I waited for her message.  Besides, I was driving on the Interstate and headed back to Brentwood. 

The Tennessean reporter wanted me to comment on something a misguided Republican had said against letting poor and hungry kids in Williamson County have free breakfast at county schools.  Never mind that the federal government covered the cost and then some – it was less than a dollar a meal – and that the cost to the county was actually less than the federal allowance.  So, the schools made money from offering this program.  This Republican had posted how awful it was to feed kids, chanting the insane mantra that we teach people to wait around for handouts.

The story hit a nerve with the public as the next day I got a call from one of my favorite TV reporters, who was then pregnant and mindful of how we care for our children.  I assured her, “This fellow’s views do not reflect our values here.”

I’ve got another mantra for you:

“It’s cheaper to feed and educate children today than to house adults in prison tomorrow.”

That’s a broad sweep that scoops up many a stereotype, but it registers on people of all prejudices.  And there is truth in there.

If you are hungry and things are awful at home, it’s the moral duty of the community to feed its children.  That better nutrition correlates with better academic performance has been demonstrated in many studies.  Further, it serves society to have the best possible educated citizenry as crime is depressed and the economy and living standards are lifted. 

This story came to mind as I saw two headlines this week.  While Baltimore public schools just announced that breakfast and lunch would be free for all school children, the school district in Aurora, Colorado, fired a cafeteria worker for giving a kid a free lunch.

To remove stigmas from kids who get free lunches, and to eliminate the paperwork and processes to qualify children, including the homeless, Maryland passed legislation that would allow the schools to have breakfast and lunch equality, while taking advantage of the federal school lunch program.  Link to story:

In Aurora, there was not so much consideration for a cafeteria worker who had empathy for a kid.  
"I had a first-grader in front of me crying because she didn't have enough money for lunch.  Yes, I gave her lunch," said Dakota Valley Elementary School kitchen manager Delia Curry, who was fired by the school district as she broke policy.  Link:

The issue of feeding kids parallels the issue of enabling people in Tennessee to go to the doctor. Screwed-up Republican legislators like Ron Ramsey have blocked access to health care for about 280,000 Tennesseans, although taking advantage of the Affordable Care Act  would cost the state nothing, and it would add millions to the state’s economy.

One thing:  did you notice it’s those who are privileged and well-fed that don’t want poor kids to eat, and that it’s people who have health insurance, paid for by the government in the case of elected officials, who don’t want others to have health care?  These would be members of the same gang who are all about big-ticket corporate welfare and subsidies for large corporations.

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