"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

OH! The HORROR! Cheese Sandwiches Served to Forgetful Students in the St. Joseph District in Missouri.

Apparently eating a cheese sandwich will impact a student's self-esteem in the St. Joseph School District. Some area residents are complaining because some children have to eat (gasp) cheese sandwiches and drink water if the child forgets his/her lunch or doesn't have enough to cover the lunch cost. Here's the previous article about the alternative lunch program from News-Press Now:

For those students who received alternative meals in the St. Joseph School District’s revised free lunch program, a cheese sandwich became like a scarlet letter of shame. Some would rather go hungry than take the free meal. “I saw one girl with her head on the table the whole lunch period. She didn’t touch her food at all because she was so embarrassed,” said Ms. Rhoad, the parent of a student.

These are not children who are receiving "free" lunch from the district, these are students who just might have used their lunch money on other tasty tidbits outside of the lunchroom:

In addition, some parents discovered that the lunch money they gave their kids was being ... well, diverted. Knowing that they weren’t going hungry, some kids would take the cash and buy other things instead of depositing it into their lunch account.“Some kids figured it out,” Steve Huff, assistant to the superintendent, said. “They said, ‘Hey, they’re going to cover me,’ so that money would find other uses.”

The school came up with an "alternative lunch" for these either forgetful or devious students:

First, keep in mind that these aren’t poor kids. The students in the alternative lunch program don’t qualify for free and reduced lunches; their parents can pay the $2.50 (on average) for a hot lunch.If schools allowed kids to run up lunch tabs and not worry about collecting outstanding balances, people would complain that taxpayer funds were being mismanaged and they shouldn’t have to make up for irresponsible parents.On the other hand, there’s no way a school can just refuse to serve lunch to a student with an outstanding balance. You can’t let kids go hungry, especially if you expect them to learn. So the district came up with the alternative lunch program, which is a good compromise.

Currently this alternative lunch program for middle and high school students is a cheese sandwich and water.

A parent from the Francis Howell School District exploded with laughter when told about these poor mistreated students (some readers in St. Joseph said prisoners eat better than these kids) who were served cheese sandwiches. When a student forgets his/her lunch or the lunch account is overdrawn in Francis Howell, he/she is served a safflower butter (not peanut butter because of peanut allergies) and jelly sandwich.

The cheese has been deemed too unhealthy and costly so cheese sandwiches are never part of alternative lunch fare in Francis Howell.

If providing alternative lunches becomes particularly appealing, why would a student ever spend his/her money in the lunchroom? Maybe if the student "suffers" (oh, the inhumanity) a couple of times by eating a cheese sandwich, he/she will be more responsible in the future bringing those notes home about a low lunch account amount or not spending lunch money in places for more fun items other than school lunch. It's not as if the parents aren't aware of the low lunch cost level:

Parents received letters saying that beginning Oct. 24, students whose lunch account balances fell below minus-$7 would receive an alternative meal. For elementary students, that meal consists of a cheese sandwich on wheat bread, pinto beans, applesauce and milk. Middle and high school students receive a cheese sandwich on wheat bread and a glass of water.Families are contacted at least three times before the lunch balance gets to the minus-$7 level, said Rick Hartigan, the district’s chief operating officer, including times when it reaches $5, and when it hits zero.

Why is the school board so "heartless"?

Three years ago, the free and reduced lunch rate climbed to 58 percent. The district recognized that there were families that didn’t qualify under the free and reduced lunch standards, but still suffered financial difficulties. The board of education authorized the nutrition services department to offer the full, regular hot meal to every student, regardless of his or her ability to pay.

“Everyone got a free lunch, the idea being that some of those kids that might fall through the cracks could have lunch instead of not going through the line. If you are hungry, you are not thinking about your schoolwork,” Mr. Hartigan said. “It was great empathy of behalf of the board of education. There’s an example of putting kids first.”But by doing that, the budget went into the hole each year.

The first year, the district had a $17,000 negative balance, the second year it lost $28,000. Last year the district had lost $45,000 — all due to unpaid lunch balances.“We discovered that a lot of students had been given money to bring to school to pay for their lunches, but knowing the school district would offer them a free lunch, used the money for other purposes. The board’s good will was taken advantage of in many instances,” Mr. Hartigan said.

School used to be a venue for learning personal responsibility and suffering consequences for irresponsible behavior. If you forget an important document when you are graduated and working in a job, will some entity come to your rescue to save you embarrassment brought about because of YOUR actions? These daily reminders and responsibilities in school such as remembering lunch money is training for the larger issues facing a student in the future. If having to eat a cheese sandwich because you forgot your lunch that day is the worst thing to happen to you during the day, I consider you a lucky child.

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