The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act passed in the House today and is headed to Obama. It’s going to put $4.5 billion toward expanding school lunches and improving their nutritional value. If you’re interested in why that money is important, Time ran a fantastic article in April that I just dug back up, but the moral of the story is that schools only end up with about $1 per meal to spend on food, kids are hilariously picky eaters, and schools often have to spend more than they are reimbursed to just to feed them, not to mention feeding them well. I’m relieved by this bill’s passage, but I’m still harboring a grudge against Republicans for trying to block it. Their issue with the bill is not that it takes away money from the food stamps program (aHEM that means the bill is already paid for). Their issue is that it’s more money in government spending and represents “a nanny state gone amok” (thanks, Sarah Palin). If you want to know why I’m so incredibly irritated with these people, it’s worth starting with this article and the comments that follow.
The bill’s detractors are missing an important part of the picture. It’s schools like mine that need the money for food. About 96% of my kids are on free or reduced lunch, which means they’ve proven that their families cannot afford the $2.50 per day that lunch costs. They either pay a $0.25 or eat for free. They can also come for breakfast in the mornings, and the cafeterias serve food even during summer vacation. Please understand: some of these kids don’t eat if school lunch isn’t provided. I want to scream at those people saying this bill is a handout to parents too lazy to wake up and make lunch. If there’s no food in the fridge at home – or no fridge, or no home – school lunch is the best meal these kids get. If we can spend $693 billion in a year’s defense budget, we can spend an extra $0.06 per meal to make sure my kids eat decently.
This is not a nanny state. It’s not government overreach. We have to feed my kids because otherwise they throw up in the bathrooms from hunger. If we’re feeding them their primary meal of the day, it’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure the food isn’t crap (don’t get me started on how expensive obesity and healthcare are). This is not lazy parents; it’s growing children.
In the end, the bill passed, and I’m glad. But it concerns me that people can support tax cuts for the ridiculously rich while begrudging food to children. Seriously? As this national deficit gets more attention and difficult decisions have to be made, I hope we’re careful with our priorities.