Low-income children shamed by cheese sandwich policy

Via Chicago Tribune:

Faced with mounting unpaid lunch charges, Albuquerque Public Schools last month instituted a “cheese sandwich policy,” serving a cold cheese sandwich, fruit and a milk carton to children whose parents are supposed to pay for some or all of their regular meals but fail to pick up the tab.

There is a lot that is troubling about this policy, but the main thing is the idea of making kids suffer because of their parents financial situations. Not only would this policy have a nutritional affect on the kids (since they don’t get the variety offered by the hot lunch options) it also has a shaming affect, singling them out and making it clear to their peers that they are poor.
Tactics like this are becoming necessary in a worsening financial environment but it’s sad to see that low-income children are the first to suffer.
What do you all think?

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212 Comments

  1. zp27
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Fair enough. This will be my last post on the matter, and I just want to say that I’m sorry f I offended you. I read the thread, and I think this is very personal for you, and it’s not a problem that was so personal to me, so I understand now why you were angry. I think we can disagree on certain aspects of this story, but I hope you understand that I don’t mean to denigrate anyone who finds themselves in a precarious financial situation, and I don’t think that any person should ever be made to feel like less of a person because of the money they do or don’t make. A lot of the world is bullshit, and I think we agree on that.

  2. wax_ghost
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    Thanks. I’m usually much better about keeping a cool head but this apparently touched a major nerve! I’m glad you and I could find common ground, though.
    Thank you for your understanding. It means a lot to me.

  3. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 3:12 am | Permalink

    Well yes, and part of what I said was that if a child is not being fed at home, the parents should apply for those various programs. Maybe they need help doing so. But there are official programs in place to provide this food so that the kids don’t have to go into foster care– it is not the job of the school to just keep giving them food off the books.

  4. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 3:16 am | Permalink

    I think the point of that comparison was that several people specifically said its NOT the nutritional value or quantity of the food that’s the issue, its the social stigma that has become attached to it. from that point of view, a comparison with a nice coat totally fits.
    However, if you’re worried that the food just isn’t good enough, that’s a different point. Although I would still say that its not meant to be a long term solution so it only needs to be healthy enough to eat occasionally or for a few days, not to eat every day all year.
    (Man, I wish this commenting format made it easier to see the post I’m replying to while I’m typing).
    Anyway, sure, truce. I was never mad at anyone in particular, there are way too many people posting here to keep track.

  5. AquarianPath
    Posted March 1, 2009 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    The school isn’t obligated to feed children whose parents either can’t pay or can’t be bothered to sign up for the free lunch program
    ————-
    Seriously?!
    Yes, they sure as HELL are obligated!! Those children are in THEIR CARE for 8 hours and thus have a responsibility to feed, shelter, and keep them safe!
    I put my children in public schools, if they held the attitude “not our obligation” kind of crap with MY kids, you’d better believe I’d yank my kid out so damn fast and have a lawyer crawling up their asses!
    Shaming my kids to get me to pay is fucked up. My son gets reduced lunches, and sometimes his account balance runs out – the school DOES NOT SEND ME A NOTICE WHEN THIS HAPPENS!!!!!!!!!!!
    I get my poor son coming up to me IN TEARS because he had to go somewhere else to get a piece of fruit, some bread with peanut butter, and a milk.
    My son is 9 years old and eats A LOT…. that isn’t enough to tide his little tummy over.
    So it’s my fucking fault if his account runs out and I am not aware of it, and yet he has to pay the price?
    Yeah, screw you all who are shrugging your shoulders.
    It sucks when your child comes home and is so hungry he pretty much eats the first thing he can find.
    Not the school’s obligation? Do you have kids?

  6. AquarianPath
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    Misskitty, you’re freaking kidding me?
    Poor people should have their kids taken away?

  7. AquarianPath
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    “the parents just don’t feed their kids. It’s not that they can’t, they won’t. Or they refuse to go to the churches or food pantries in the area.”
    Yeah, Brandi…. I would love you to cite some sources on this BS.
    It’s not that I can’t pay the bill, it’s that I won’t.
    You know, it’s so much fun to see my son in tears when he comes home starving and hurt because some kid pushed him down in a puddle because he’s the “poor kid”….

  8. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 2:35 am | Permalink

    A child needs to be fed.
    There are many many other things the parents can do about the problem– signing up for free lunch programs, various aid programs, food stamps, going to food banks, going to soup kitchens, or whatever. But if the child is not getting ANY food at home, that’s a problem that needs to be changed. Hopefully the parents can change it by some other method like those listed above, but if they really honestly can’t feed the child then yes, they are not doing a decent job taking care of the child. It might not be their fault, and its sad, but the kid needs to be taken care of by someone who can at least provide food, shelter, and clothing.
    Look, I’m not happy about a situation like that. But, I’m not sure what the alternative is that you all are suggesting. If we know of a child who is not being fed AT ALL by their parents, what should we do? Just ignore it, and say oh well, they get one meal a day at school so its fine? I’m not sure what you expect them to do during weekends and vacations.
    Maybe instead of having summer school, schools should be required to run free buffets all summer for anyone who’s hungry. Of course that would use up all their funding so they wouldn’t be able to have any teachers in the summer, but apparently its their responsibility to make sure kids don’t go hungry, and that’s more important than all their other responsibilities like education.

  9. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted March 2, 2009 at 2:52 am | Permalink

    Here, let’s consider a hypothetical.
    Say you’re an elementary school teacher. There’s a child in your class who is not in the free lunch program and yet never brings a lunch. The only food he eats is the free lunch the school provides to him anyways. He tells you that he doesn’t get any food at home– not breakfast, not dinner, and no meals on weekends. He’s small for his age and always tired.
    So what do you do? Do you say “I’m sorry Jimmy, but its not your parents’ fault that they’re poor and I wouldn’t want to punish them for that, so I’m not going to do anything and you’ll just have to keep surviving on the school lunches alone”?
    Or would you call social services and say look, this kid is clearly malnourished, you need to check into that home and figure out what the problem is.

  10. ehartsay
    Posted March 5, 2009 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Thank you on this.
    I am a grad student.
    For what my salary is, by the end of a month, sometimes *I* can’t afford to even have so much as a cheese sandwich for an entire day’s meal.
    And yet, taxes are still being taken from my paycheck to pay for these things for OTHER people.
    How is this fair.
    I can’t afford it for MYSELF,
    and these people have the NERVE to complain that it isn’t good enough when the money is being taken out of MY pocket for it.

  11. BeastlyKitty
    Posted April 10, 2009 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    So, I gotta pipe up on this.
    By the school we, ( my single mother my sister and I) by less then a hundred dollars -a year- were barely over the cap for free lunches.
    So, guess what? I had ‘reduced” lunches. Which for one, were the sandwhich/fruit/milk thing.
    That is -extreamly- classist. High school is bad enough without this sthick too! I only went to high school 5 years ago!
    Trust me was it a “oh poor lunch” kid thing. Everyone knew, no one committed on it, but everyone knew.
    and BTW, we lived in a nice house, with a good cars and in a decent neighboorhood.
    The reason I add that? My mother -did- take care of me, was it her fault we could not afford the school lunches that were priced somewhere between 5-6 dollars a day? Not at all, Mum worked two jobs.
    think about it. 6 dollars a day… 240 dollars a month on the -reduced- lunch scale, for my sister and I.
    Anyone got a spare damn near 300 bucks a month? I know I don’t.

  12. Girly
    Posted May 26, 2009 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Even though I work a full time job and have only one child, it is very hard to make sure she always has a positive lunch $ balance. Paying rent, car pymt, babysitter, groceries, etc it is getting harder and harder to have any extra money. Everything is getting more expensive and I’m still making the same salary!! My daughter’s school has the pb&j policy, which she has had to eat the pb&j at least 2 this school yr. I was mortified when she came home and told me what she had for lunch!! She dosen’t even like pb&j, so what exactly did she eat for lunch…NOTHING! I make too much money to qualify for free or reduced lunch and certainly don’t qualify for food stamps to help with groceries, so she dosen’t pack her lunch either. I know schools are nonprofit, but they most definitely more funding or some restructuring where the lunches are concerned! What exactly did North Carolina institute an education lottery for?

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