Thursday, June 4, 2015

Free Summer Lunch Programs ... What Do You Think?

Okay, so Monday I wrote about some plans I had for our week. This is the part where I write the blog posts about the week ... mostly because Mr. Kerrie is out of town and it's entertaining for him and also for my parents and also because it's my online scrapbook and also because you might enjoy hearing about what we do and do it yourself!

Today's post might be a little controversial. We just got back from doing the Free Summer Lunch that our local school district is funded for. I took my own 5 kids plus their friend Julia. The free hot lunch program is for kids ages 1-18, so I ate before we went and took my water and some strawberries. The kids had their choice of chicken strips or hamburger, then their other choices were peaches, applesauce, pineapple, salad, broccoli and also juice or milk. My kids are chocolate milk fiends so most of them chose that and were in heaven! There are two weekly menus and they rotate.

Some people disagree with this kind of program, funded by the US Department of Agriculture. The free school breakfast and lunch programs for underprivileged kids is a hot button among political people. I mean, I get that our country is broke. We have no money. But we are still giving handouts left and right and funding programs like this. So I do understand that side.

I also know that the school we went to for the free lunch is right up the road from our home. We are in a middle-class neighborhood in the suburbs and do just fine but within walking distance from us you can find all sorts of government housing and kids who probably don't eat as much as they should for whatever reason. We could argue all day long about bad parenting and handouts versus help and long term versus short term but I have tried that before and it gets us all NOWHERE. So I said, you know what? My husband is out of town and I would love to have someone else cook lunch for me a few times a week and have it be free.

And you know what else? I PAY TAXES. So does my husband. I have pretty much always worked, even if just from home for the last 14 years. Whenever I would find myself out of a job I never went on welfare or government assistance. I was on Medicaid when I was 18 and pregnant and waitressing with no insurance. I hated the way I was treated by the female doctor at Shawnee Mission Medical Center (Dr. Sara for short) and the way I was treated at the hospital when I miscarried after being abused by my boyfriend. I don't think people who need help should be treated like crap and I also don't think rich people should be treated like they are all jerkwads. I'm learning it's not my place to judge anybody and I work on it every day.

We do our part in a lot of ways and they WANT us to come in and eat to keep their funding so there I went. Oh, and by the way, my five kids don't go to public school and don't use those resources that are funded anyway, so why not go for some free lunch every now and then in the summer? Here are some words from my friend Elizabeth Hammond, local mom of 6, on this program. I always love her perspective:

So if it's not entirely free, does it mean our taxes increase?

"I always get the negative remarks about not taking free handouts from the government ... but they have been doing this lunch program for many many years and other districts have breakfast and dinner with it! There are rules that really irritate the crap out of me, like yesterday [my daughter] wanted to go back in to get applesauce and the lunch lady was really nasty and said nope you can't go back in. I'm like here you set up a program to feed hungry kids but yet because of stupid government regulations you won't let a kid go back in and get more applesauce ... they won't let you leave with food, they make you throw it away. But then they beg people to come because they want the funding for the underprivileged kids who don't eat in the summer."

Elizabeth also said sometimes there are cool surprises. Like yesterday our local library was there handing out free books to promote their summer reading program.

So what's your opinion on programs like this? Who says I'm not going to take the money I save on lunch this summer and donate it to charity? Or spend it all on moscato? Do you think it makes a difference if you are judgy about it?

*I want to say thank you to my lifelong friend Ambre Rush Brown for sending me the email about this. I had no idea about it. I told a friend of mine about it (the quoter from above) and she has been going for years, but has not been super keen on sharing it because people get judgy and rude!
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