We Shouldn’t Make Any Cuts to the Free and Reduced School Lunch Program

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Students Getting Lunch In a School Cafeteria (Tim Lauer/USDA/Flickr/Google Images)

In the news recently, there was a comment made by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about free lunches for low-income students. According to Mrs. DeVos, she was joking around while delivering a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference when she stated that she was the “first person to tell Bernie Sanders to his face, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”  These comments are included with the sentiment felt by some in Washington that there should be cuts to the free and reduced lunch program for children from low-income households. There is no such thing as a free lunch. I agree with Mrs. DeVos on that notion, as these programs are funded by the federal government, however, we shouldn’t make any cuts to the free and reduced school lunch program.

No child should ever have to go hungry here in the United States. No child should have to worry about whether they are going to be able to get the proper nutrition. According to feedingamerica.com, over 13 million children live in food-insecure households. In the 2014 – 2015 school year, 21.5 million low-income children were beneficiaries of the national school lunch program. We cannot allow children to go hungry in this nation by denying them free lunches or any other type of free meals in school. If we allow this, then we have ultimately failed as a nation. The meals served in school may be the only meals that these children get to eat. That is horrible, but in some instances, this is the cold hard truth.

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School Lunch (USDA/Flickr/Google Images)

I’ve heard a lot of people say, “If you can’t afford them, you shouldn’t have them.” First of all, I don’t think that most people can ever completely afford to have children, but I do agree that if you can’t take care of yourself, then you probably shouldn’t consider bringing another life into this world. This isn’t fair to the child. There are certainly some people who shouldn’t be procreating, however, there are a lot of circumstances that are beyond the control of the parents. There could be illness or injury, perhaps even the death of a spouse that limits the earning power of the household. There could be layoffs, someone in the household could’ve lost their job. These parents could very well be working hard, but the money may not be there. We certainly shouldn’t pass judgment on a situation before we have all of the facts. Not every situation is the same. Regardless of what is going on with the household income, we can’t hold the children responsible. They didn’t ask to be brought into these situations, and they shouldn’t be denied food based on the inability of their parents or custodians to pay. The children shouldn’t be made victims of all of this.

We have yet to see what kind of cuts congress has planned to implement with these programs. Regardless, they should fully understand the value of our children and appreciate that fact. To reiterate what I said earlier, I realize that there is no such thing as a free lunch. At some point, somewhere down the line, there is a monetary value attached to that. Making cuts to these programs, or abolishing them, would be the same as taking a meal away from these children because their parents weren’t able to pay. As a society, we cannot allow for this to happen. While free or reduced lunches aren’t actually free, being someone has to pay for it, we can’t allow our children to go hungry.

“In a time of tight budgets, difficult choices have to be made. We must make sure our very limited resources are spent on priorities. I believe we should have no higher priority than investing in our children’s classrooms and in their future.”

– Bob Riley