I learned a new term this week: lunch shaming. What is lunch shaming? It’s when parents don’t pay their children’s lunch bills at school so the schools make them eat food I lived a large portion of my life surviving off of.
We really are out of problems if this is an issue worthy concern for society.
The New York Times had a big story on how children were made to eat cheese sandwiches because their parents had paid off their school lunch debt.
Now, it’s been a while since I was in school, but I do remember school lunches costing a couple of bucks. And I remember I was allowed to buy a school lunch one day per week because that was all my parents could afford. Free lunch was not an option. While we might have qualified – I honestly have no idea how much my father made but I know it wasn’t a lot – the government teat was not an option. My family had pride and my parents provided for me and my siblings, undoubtedly at their own expense.
The idea of parental sacrifice for the good of their children is now dead. “The school will feed them” is the new way of life. But it shouldn’t be.
One of the students mentioned in the Times piece said, “I was so embarrassed,” about being denied the school food she wanted and given lesser “cheese sandwich” level food…for free.
According to the paper, the family qualified for free lunches but “a paperwork mix-up” caused confusion and led to the denial. No, bad and lazy parenting led to the denial.
I know we’re not supposed to say it, but if a parent won’t provide basic food for their kids they’re bad parents. With all the social programs and food stamps available, how much “help” do people need?
My mother lost her right leg above the knee when I was 9, yet she made sure to make lunch every day. She made sure I ate breakfast every single day before I left for school.
I’m sure she would have rather slept in, could’ve found more enjoyable use for the time and money to make me lunch, but she did it because it was her responsibility. And she did it because she loved me.
That last part is the most important. Being a parent means loving your children, and taking care of their basic needs is how that love is expressed most frequently and effectively.
My dad drove a forklift 5 days a week and a Zamboni on the weekends to provide for me and my 4 siblings, and my mother took care of feeding us. There was never any doubt about their love, even when me and my brother and sisters did our best to inspire their anger (and we did a thorough job).
Now too many kids are being taught it’s schools and government who care for them, who feed them, not parents. And far too many parents are content to cede that basic responsibility.
Schools are providing breakfast and lunch to students of bad parents, and more and more are adding dinner to the menu. I get that some people have it rough, but we do have social safety net programs. If people on those aren’t using their benefits to feed their kids, what are we paying them for?
If you won’t provide your child with food you should lose your child. Maybe that would shock their system to the point they’d get out of bed to made some oatmeal, hard-boil an egg, or make a sandwich?
All of those options, by the way, cost literally pennies per day. But the real cost is doing something that shows your kids you care enough to do something, and that’s a bridge too far for too many people these days.
Billy Shore, the head of a charity that advocates absolving parents of basic responsibility, wrote a response to what he called the “shameful” Times piece in which he writes about how schools need to feed “their kids.” But they aren’t their kids, they are their students; those kids have parents. Those parents have responsibilities they aren’t fulfilling. And in not fulfilling those responsibilities they’re conveying to their kids that government provides for them, not parents.
That’s a horrible and damaging message to give to a kid.
As much as someone caring for a kid is something they need to know, nothing will replace the role of a parent. And a parent simply shirking responsibility because someone else will do it damages kids far more than having to eat a cheese sandwich.
It’s time to judge these people, to shame them, to shun them. The student I mentioned at the open of this piece shouldn’t be mad at the school of giving her food she didn’t choose, she should be angry with her mother for choosing not to provide her with food in the first place.