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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Nutritious school lunch: Graham crackers and milk (or nothing)

This is the ultimate outrage. Reynolds school board members, you should resign right now. Every single one of you.

Comments (43)


I will restrain myself from making smart-aleck remarks when it comes to denying kids lunch at school.

I'd like to see those school board members and officials go for the day on graham crackers and milk. Have them work all day, plus go to the gym, and have to sit through some meetings where they have to truly pay attention. Let them see how hard it is to make it through the day.

I like how they assume that the kids can afford lunch. There's a lot more to whether or not you can afford lunch than just your parents' income. It could be this month there were a lot of medical bills, and nothing left over for anything. Maybe a parent's hours got cut at work, and they are low on money.

Feeding kids is a very important part of being successful in school.

I realize money in schools is tight, believe me. However, I would have looked other places for money than to not feed hungry kids.

The least you could do is feed them for a few days while you work to contact their parents individually. Allow them a few days of credit. Our school does.

It Reminds me of The 80's when Catsup was considered a Food instead of a condiment By The Reagan Administration. Must have jumped parties over the Decades?


Maybe those students who were 'abusing the system' ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day because they were HUNGRY!!!!

What is wrong with these adults! Once again, it comes down to the teachers to make sure that their students have, not only supplies, but now food as well.


Looks like there's still time for a golf tournament at the Resort at the Mountain. Granted, it's a fundraiser. But I wonder, did the board members pay to play?

Andrea Watson, the spokesperson defending the nutrition policy, helped organize the golf tourney, so maybe she knows.

Check out the 'thumbscanner' stuff in the nutrition services survey. Is that what I think it is? How much did that cost.

It probably costs 50 cents a day for the food for a kids' hot lunch. Maybe less.

Whose kids are these? How about a parent taking responsibility for feeding their own kid. They can't come up with a couple of bucks a day to pay for a lunch?

I have to agree with Richard. Where are the parents? How many of them who "cant" feed their kids have a cell phone, cable tv, and beer in the fridge?
I will agree that the lunch system is messed up though...most districts give free lunches to everyone, others offer it to anyone with a latino surname, and yet others have crazy restrictions. When my wife and I were both unemployed about 5 years ago, we applied to the free lunch program and the form said you automatically qualify if you are on unemployment...we were denied because we both were getting unemployment benefits and made too much money! Were we getting about $600/week between us.
Nevertheless, we managed to feed our kids very well without it...we turned off cable tv. That $50/mo will do a lot. And we were both employed again in about 3 months.

I really dont think there are many people who cannot feed their kids lunch. I think the schools dangle it in front of them, and who's not going to accept free lunch? Then the schools get more federal money.
Pretty much like the ESL program...

I agree with Jon and Richard. I live in Gresham and see lots of kids from the Rockwood area that have logo clothing and cell phones, yet line up for the free breakfasts and lunches. I'm sure at least a few of these parents have the resources to pay for their kids meals.
I know, back in the "dark ages" when I attended grade school and Jr. High, there was no such thing as a free lunch - much less a breakfast.

Great attention grabber! Evil school board and all that. But I suspect the story is much more complicated. Could it be that the Feds (under Democrats maybe?)were a little too generous in the first place? And now comes Mr. Bush and the Republicans who are sending too many billions of dollars (and of course lives) to Iraq so it's time to cut our losses--in the school lunch program. It comes back to the same old, hard to find, middle ground: Find the best way out of Iraq now and give local folks more control and money to run the schools. I want those kids to grow up strong and smart so they can pay into Social Security so I won't have to go back to work when I'm 80 years old.

Who said there's no such thing as a free lunch? Obviously that's not true in this, our Age of Entitlement.

On the surface (and it would be interesting to see a more detailed discussion of this whole subject) it appears that there has finally been an effort to bring some accountability to the ever-growing list of giveaway programs. Programs that across the board seem to get corrupted by promise of easy money to offset personal responsibility. Sad that some kids who might really need the help are caught in the crossfire.

But also on the surace, this appears to be just another example of the old maxim that There Will Never Be Enough Money to do all the things that the neo-socialists desire.

It seems like the result of this program is that families who can pay for lunch will be forced to do so. This should satisfy those who resent others who take a free ride, when they don't need to.

But I didn't see anything in the article that indicated that the really needy kids would get lunch. It said you either come to school with money to pay, or you get graham crackers and milk. So the kids eating graham crackers and milk, the kids who really get punished by this program, are the ones who legitimately need the free lunch. This part doesn't make any sense at all. At least not for a responsible, well-functioning organization. It might provide good publicity for their fundraiser though.

I just love this idea that we should punish kids because their parents don't give them money for lunch or have items available at home they can bring.

Let's just make those kids go hungry to show the parents. Yea, like that works.

All it does is mean kids won't learn as well, are more likely to be disruptive, etc.

There are also a lot of kids, especially young ones, who leave their lunch or lunch money at home, on the bus, lose it, etc. I can't count how many times that happened to me as a kid. The school usually let you do credit for that day, and you had to bring the money in by the next school day.

I can't imagine having to go on just some graham crackers and some milk (or nothing at all). I guess if you're lactose intolerant you're stuck with water?

Also, it can increase the likelihood of low blood sugar in kids, which is not a good thing. Too low can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, fainting, and even coma. It can also lead to diabetes later in life.

There are plenty of families out there without the funds for lunch for their kids. Sometimes it is temporary - medical problems, parent was ill and couldn't work, pay is late (happens a lot to those of us who are self employed or contract workers), emergency comes up, etc.


Mmmmm -- replace a scheme that results in surplus stockpiles with "revenue-insurance[.]"

Can anyone recall the last time there was a cheese giveaway?

Free Lunch for Lazy Parent.

Maybe some of those parents are too busy being political activists instead of working and taking care of their children.

Parents are responsible for feeding their kids. Not the taxpayer. Not the school. It doesn't cost that much to feed your kid breakfast and lunch!

When I was growing up, there were several instances where I knew, even in grade school, we were on the poor side.

But we always got school breakfast/lunch from mom or dad. Mom fed us Quaker oatmeal every morning.(Today, the thought of oatmeal makes me literally GAG. But it was cheap and filling)Peanut butter and jelly? You bet. Lots of it. Egg salad? Gross. But cheap. Pennies per serving! Even today! But we always got fed, by our PARENTS, whether we liked the food or not.

If you don't buy packaged, prepared food, kid's breakfast and lunch should be affordable for even the POOREST American families. I'm curious how many of these so-called poor families have cell phones, cable TV, internet access, X-box or PS3, a parent or two who smoke and drink, a pet dog or cat.

The parents who say they can't afford to feed their kids need some help with budgeting and meal planning, not a free handout from the school district.

Does "maybe" have anything to do with anything, other than you're own fanciful thoughts, Tom?

Another angle here is that schools are very good at serving things that many kids will not eat. I nearly always got the school lunch, and most of it went into the garbage. I would have have been very happy to have the alternative of PB&J or cheese sandwich plus fruit and milk rather than the usual food disaster as that would have been more food that I would actually eat.

As a social service agency by default a school district should insure all students receive enough food during school time (this includes breakfast, lunch and in some cases dinner)if they need it. If parents do not settle up the bills in a timely manner it should be reported to both a bill collector and the state (as child abuse).

Listen to yourselves - you people who think a child should be punished (by giving them graham crackers and milk for the day) because their parents can't afford to/or choose not to feed their children. Hungry children don't learn. If their parent/s are, or home life is, so dysfunctional that these children don't have breakfast or lunch, the likelihood that they will even COMPLETE their education (after you decide they shouldn't be entitled to a 'free lunch' on your 'tax dollars') is nominal. Then your tax dollars will support them on unemployment, disability or, the daily cost of incarceration.

Let's take the long view here folks. My sister is a teacher. Many teachers, including her, keep FOOD in their arsenal for the children who are not provided for. To punish a child because their parent has beer in the refrigerator, cable TV, but relies upon the school to feed them is just so wrong it defies description.

There is a place for a social safety net in this country, and our children who come to school hungry should be in it - regardless of whether their parents squander their own (usually small) resources.

And no, not everyone can afford to buy food. Some can barely afford a place to live in and electricity.

I've been in that situation before. No cable. No cell phone. Only had dial up internet, and that was because my job was on the net. No game console, except the Playstation we'd bought years before that barely works. Neith of us drink or smoke, and we had no pets.

I always love how people not in those situations always like to make assumptions about how those people must be lazy, wasting their money, etc. Maybe they're just poor. Maybe they have expensive health problems. Maybe they've lost their job.

It's not like we're asking them to serve the kids steak and lobster. A PB&J sandwich, piece of fruit, and milk or other healthy beverage isn't so much to ask.

We either take care of these kids when they're young, educate them, and ensure they finish school, or we pay for it later when they're committing crimes, needing more expensive social services than some PB&J, and are starting their own families at 16.

Maybe we should make it mandatory for the parents of the kids on free lunch eat graham crackers and milk and prove it w/ a receipt. See how they like it. Come on people, if your going to pop out kids you are responsible for them, not the school. If you can't afford to feed your kids don't have them.

And no, not everyone can afford to buy food. Some can barely afford a place to live in and electricity.

Agreed. But some school districts have more than 70% of the kids on the free lunch program. That defies logic. Some schools even offer the lunch program in the summer. Beaverton schools offered breakfast and lunch during the summer...for all family members, not just kids in the schools, or those on the program. They have the money for this?

I always love how people not in those situations always like to make assumptions about how those people must be lazy, wasting their money, etc. Maybe they're just poor. Maybe they have expensive health problems. Maybe they've lost their job.

Thats a lot of maybes. Maybe the parents are expecting the government to feed their kids.

A PB&J sandwich, piece of fruit, and milk or other healthy beverage isn't so much to ask.

Exactly..of the parents. They could do it for a few dollars a month.

If you can't afford to feed your kids don't have them.

And if a child's parents won't feed him or her, the child should be left to die?

This argument is so Dickensian. To quote:

"Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"

Ebenezer Scrooge

Shame on you people. I make quite a bit of money. I have never had children. I pay a LOT of taxes. And I would never begrudge a hungry child a peanut butter sandwich, regardless of whether their parents 'decided' not to feed them and let the school do it, or whether the parent cannot feed them.

Do I wish that people who cannot afford to raise children would stop breeding? Yes! But, as an earlier post opined, there are many circumstances out of parents' control in this world of ours - catastrophic medical debt, job loss, you name it.

I don't find this '70%' figure compelling - and even if it were, as Jack opined - so - what do we do? Just let the kids go hungry?

That'll teach 'em all right!

There is no excuse for letting children go hungry. It's really easy to sit on your high horse and judge their parents. It seems that a family has to meet certain income requirements in order for the childrens lives to have value. I am completely disgusted.

If you are a school administrator, and there are kids coming to your school with no lunch and no money, and you feed them crackers and milk, or nothing, you belong in jail.

Amen Jack! To not feed the kids more then crackers and milk is totally wrong. What is the matter with this dumb school board?!?! And for people to comment here that "my tax money shouldn't be spent on feeding kids" is sickening! what is wrong with people these days? Where is the compassion?

According to the Oregonian article, "Before the changes, schools such as Alder and Glenfair elementaries, where more than 70 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, offered free breakfast and lunch for every student. Those schools recently, however, began annual recertifications to comply with federal law and found a large number of students didn't qualify but were receiving meals, district spokeswoman Andrea Watson said."

The FDA is very clear on eligibility for the school lunch program:

The Reynolds district's nutrition department lost $400,000 last year because the federal funds weren't covering the costs for students who were ineligible for the free lunches. That $400,000 was covered by transferring money from the school's general fund.

Given the precarious financial state of this school district, not to mention most other Oregon school districts, what other choice did the Reynolds district have to make up for the $400k school lunch deficit? Lay off 50 teachers? Close a grade school or two?

This problem is far more complex than bringing out the "children will starve" rhetoric.

I hope the voters out your way call you to task for defending these people.

Whatever it takes, whatever it takes, a school should not refuse to feed a child who's got no food and no money. Lock up the parents if you have to, fire three or four vice principals, but feed the child.

At what point are we going to hold the parents responsible for the welfare of their kids. There are some really needy kids out there, I'm not saying don't feed them, but 70% of the kids? Come on. At some point the parents need to step up to the plate and quit being lazy and stop letting the goverment do the raising of your kids. You decided to have them, now take care of them.

Outraged that "poor" children aren't being given a free lunch? Well, here's the opportunity for you all to put your money where your mouth is! I suggest an immediate donation to the school, earmarked to provide lunch to needy children. For only a couple of dollars a day, all of you could sponsor the lunch of a needy child.

There! Problem solved! Oh, wait...you all want "someone else" to pay for it, right? It's "someone else's" problem.

If you all want to feed poor kids, no one's stopping you. The real issue, though, is that you want to feed poor kids, but you want someone else to pay for it. It's just like every other socialist program.

Parents should feed their own kids. If all they can afford is PB&J (which, by the way, is what I ate almost every day growing up!) that's not a public issue, it's a private one.

What next? You'll be insisting that the taxpayers provide free designer duds so that no kid has to feel inferior?

I'll take you to task, Jack. Explain to me where the Reynolds district is going to come up with the 400k+ per year to feed the kids ineligible for the federal free lunch program? Money doesn't grow on trees in east Multnomah County like it apparently does west of I-205.

I think he is driving at the matter of priorities, not in isolation.

Food is already a National Security issue. Our surplus is used in like manner to oil for other countries, where we cultivate dependence by others for our food exports. It is unquestionably a matter of public concern.

Would a private school refuse to accept a hungry child as a client?

You'll be interested to know, Jack, that the Mrs. agrees with you. When I asked her where to get the money for the free lunches, she said, "cut the football program." I thought about that for a while, and I think she's on the right track.

However, cutting just the football program would place an unfair burden on one school program and would not provide enough replacement revenue. So I thought of a broader solution that seems fair. To get the $400k for the free kid's lunches, the Reynolds district could apply enough of an across the board wage cut for all staff to cover the $400k. The teacher's union is compassionate, right? They don't want school kids to starve. I'm sure they'd go for it.

But I didn't see anything in the article that indicated that the really needy kids would get lunch. It said you either come to school with money to pay, or you get graham crackers and milk. So the kids eating graham crackers and milk, the kids who really get punished by this program, are the ones who legitimately need the free lunch.

LC, I believe the graham crackers and milk is for kids who do not qualify for the free lunch program, and did not bring lunch money that day. Those children who really do legitimately need the free lunch will get it.

As the administrator said, the move from PB&J to graham crackers was done in part as a disincentive for kids who should be buying their own lunch but just skate every day on "emergency rations". It was not done to punish kids who are on the free lunch program.

Seems to me like a lot of people are jumping on the administrators who are tasked with implementing the rules, rather than addressing the rules they must implement.

Is providing meals part and parcel of providing an education for every child? Great, then eliminate the means-test for free/reduced lunch and just include free lunch for all as part of the school budget. And, of course, come up with the additional revenue required or the other expenses to cut in order to provide it.

But until the system is changed in that way, those administrators are in a tough spot. I sympathize with those kids whose parents are irresponsible enough to leave them without lunch when they should be able to provide one. And I sympathize with those families who, for whatever reason, legitimately are unable to afford to pay to feed their kids yet do not qualify for the free/reduced lunch program.

And I sympathize with the administrators who must find a way to balance all of these competing needs. If the system sucks, don't blame the people on all sides who are stuck in the system. Change the freakin' system!

This does raise a general question about what to do when parents have the ability but not the inclination to act responsibly in raising their children. It is tough because nobody wants to make a kid pay for the bad decisions of his or her parents. But really, no matter what you do to make the parents pay some kind of consequences for their actions, the child will be affected. The alternative is to allow the parents to act without consequences, which obviously encourages more irresponsible behavior. This I know from personal experience with relatives.

So how do we make those irresponsible parents shape up, without making the kids pay along with them?

What next? You'll be insisting that the taxpayers provide free designer duds so that no kid has to feel inferior?

No way. Uniforms. That would solve a lot of problems in schools. They cant "show off", no gang colors, and it tells kids they are there to learn every time they put it on.
And dont tell me they cant afford it...people are somehow putting their kids in $75 jeans & $100 hoodies, they can pay $15-$20 for a pair of slacks at Target. Hell, it would probably cut their clothing budget by half at least.

This reminds me of the line Keanu Reeves' character had in the 80's movie "Parenthood":

"Ya need a license to fish, you need a license to drive, you need a license hunt, but nobody needs a license needed to be a parent"

Here's an interesting article about a group of community volunteers who saw hungry kids and actually did something about it.


How many of you here to complain about hungry kids will do the same? Or is it someone else's job to feel them, and someone else's job to pay for it?

Actually, I'm already donating to my school, and will be doing more throughout the year. So no, I'm not expecting "other" people to pay for it -- I'm doing what I can for my school, which also has a high number of children from low income families.

Yes, I listed a lot of maybe's. And there are a lot of situations you have to consider. Having been in some myself, and seen others in those situations, I know there is a lot more to being poor than just being lazy.

When we had our daughter, we were both working and making around $40K between the two of us. Just before her first birthday, I got laid off. Then I started getting sick, making it hard to work. I ended up needing surgery to correct the problem. As such, we ended up on WIC and food stamps for a while. My husband was working his 40 hours a week, plus putting in as much time as he could at his friend's moving business. We weren't poor because we were lazy - we were poor because we got hit with a few setbacks. This happens to a lot of people.

But yes, there are lazy parents out there. Some don't work as much as they should. Some are assuming their kids are still getting the free lunch they did before. Some probably qualify for the free lunch but just haven't filled out the paperwork. There are certainly parents who could do more to make sure their kids have food. But why should the child be punished and his education harmed? Don't we want the kids to have the opportunity to do better? They won't do that on graham crackers and milk.

There are a lot of places that money can be cut in order to help make up at least part of the $400K deficit, and food for hungry kids shouldn't be one of them. A lot of small cuts here and there can make a huge difference. As could coming to the community a while ago when it was obvious there was a problem and trying to raise funds from the community. Who wouldn't give $10, $20, or more to ensure kids at least get PB&J, a piece of fruit, and a nutritious drink?

And don't get me started on uniforms. It doesn't cut down on a parent's clothing budget - it increases it. You have to buy all the mandated clothing (and enough so that you have clean clothes all week and so they don't get terribly worn out before school ends) plus a wardrobe for outside school. It can get quite expensive, I know as my home school district requires uniforms. We compared what was spent before uniforms and after, and there was often times a 50-75% increase per child.

When my kids were in Portland Public Schools, they often forgot to tell me that they had used up their lunch money. (I didn't give it to them every day--I sent a check to deposit in their cafeteria account.) Then they'd eat the substitute lunch for kids who didn't bring money, and *still* forget to tell me to send more money. Only when the school called to tell me the money was used up *and* my kid had eaten the substitute lunch for 3 days did I finally know to send a check.

Part of the problem was that the school refused to refund unused money at the end of the school year--if they'd been willing to do that, I would have just sent in a check every month on the first school day.

how many kids were "starving" before the program?

how did they determine that number?

if they know which kids are "starving", why not find out why - there may be other, worse, problems at home?

of course "punishing" the parents by letting their kids "starve" is stupid.

so is feeding ALL the kids. what part of public school education counteracts for kids the inherent implication that government, in some form, will assume your parents' (or, by extension, your own) responsibilities. of course that nonexistent lesson would never dissuade those parents who can or would be able to provide for their kids but for their ongoing bad decisions - or simply their active pusuit or passive acceptance of a "free lunch".

boy, that's what made this country great - entitlements!

if you build it, they will come.

if they don't pay for it, who cares.

if you question the setup you're the equivalent of a racist.

It isn't not feeding all the kids. It's there if they need it, but most kids with the ability are going to bring their own lunch or purchase a hot meal. PB&J can get real old day after day. For the most part, kids are going to pick hamburgers, pizza, chicken nuggets, or whatever to PB&J.

But it's really nice having the option of it being there if you forget your lunch, don't have your money today, etc.


I don't know if PPS does it, but here in Gresham Barlow we can add money to an account and have access to it online. I'm planning on doing that for my kindergartener so she has the option of buying her lunch on those days when they have lunch. But I don't have to worry about putting in too much since I can monitor the balance.

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