Ed pointed out that in Salt Lake City, Utah, dozens of students had their lunches taken away because their parents were behind on payments. This recent controversy made national news. And who was blamed? Take a look: Lunchlady on Leave after Trashing Hungry Kids' Food. District officials have given a public apology and have said that this will never happen again, and they put the blame on a worker who was following their policy. This is not an isolated incident! It has been happening in cities throughout the U.S.
Up until two years ago, I worked in a public school in Wisconsin. We had our own hot lunch issues because I taught in a public elementary charter school which was a pretty new idea for that district at the time of the school's inception. Until halfway through our first year of existence, our students didn't even receive hot lunch. Because we were located within a middle school, our students eventually received access to the cafeteria and the hot lunch program. About seven years ago, I was in line behind a little boy whose lunch account was in the negative. Still, I was told by the cafeteria worker at the cashier that they would never not feed our little ones. She said if he had been a middle schooler who was too far behind in payments, they would first remind the student to bring in lunch money and may begin withholding lunches, but not for the elementary school kids. Even that rubbed me the wrong way, but what could I do? That was the policy! My last year there, I did see students coming to the lunch tables with exchanged lunches. They were given the bare minimum if their lunch accounts were empty, and their peers noticed.
That trend has clearly spread.
The Star Tribune, Feb. 11, 2014, had the following article: Minnesota students: don't forget your lunch money. A majority of public school districts deny hot lunch - or any lunch at all in some cases - to children who can't pay for them." This should concern us all. "...if students fail to come up with even 40 cents, some schools respond by denying or downgrading students' lunches..."
Tom Colicchio, a chef and food activist, responded, "If we want kids that are better educated, it starts with nutrition."
He's not wrong! Hungry kids can't focus. Hungry children can't concentrate. Hungry students can't learn.
On The Ed Show, Jennifer Hartstein said, "We going to create a system where they (the kids) don't want to go to school and that's going to start young. And then we're going to perpetuate the cycle of uneducated, unskilled people because they're not getting the education they need to do anything and further their lives in any way."
And it's not just happening in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Utah. This is happening throughout our nation, and it's only one symptom of a greater issue. A chasm has begun to form in our nation, dividing the haves from the have-nots. You may say it's not happening, that I'm wrong or disillusioned, but I'm here to tell you that even the children have noticed. It's time to wake up and see what's happening all around you. It's time to look with your eyes and your mind wide open because it's not too late to make a difference.
I began writing my Reliance on Citizens trilogy in early 2011, because I noticed what was happening in the world around me, and I wanted to make a difference. Frankly, if public policy continues on the path that has already been chosen, the future outlook of our society is bleak indeed. Who has chosen this path? It is certain wealthy politicians who have made the changes that will be a downfall of freedom and equality for everyone. Please read my statement carefully. I am not blaming all politicians, nor am I blaming the wealthy. No. It is a small but powerful group of wealthy politicians who are the root of this problem. Of that, I am positive. If they were not wealthy, they would understand the impact their policies are having on the majority of citizens. And if they were not politicians, they would not be able to create the change we are seeing.
But, you may say, it is a majority of those citizens who put those particular politicians in office. Why would they do that? Why would people knowingly create a world in which they and their children are being harmed? The honest answer is, they wouldn't.
I think some of the people who voted for those politicians must be just as removed from the problem as those who they have voted into office. In my heart, I cannot believe that anyone would knowingly harm the innocent, the children, sick and disabled. Instead, I think some people truly believe that the majority of people who are being harmed by public policy are lazy or deserve what they get because of their past mistakes.
What about the others? It takes a majority of the vote to put someone into office, so what about the people who are now being harmed by the very politicians they helped vote into office? Why would they do that? I think many believe the lies they've been told. They see the statistics that point to job growth and believe they are among the few who are having trouble landing a job. Perhaps they even blame themselves for their situation and think most of their peers are better off.
I'm here to tell you that's not true. If you think for just a minute, I'm sure you can name more than one person who you personally know who has been affected negatively by recent political changes. Maybe your friend's children have been moved to another school because their's was shut down due to the No Child Left Behind policy. Perhaps a neighbor lost a job and is back in school to beef up their resume with the hope of finding a better job in the near future. Ask your kids if they know anyone in their class who had their hot lunch replaced or removed when they reached the cashier.
And yes, even the federal government recognizes that there are problems with No Child Left Behind.
I wrote my Reliance on Citizens trilogy as a wake up call to Americans. It's about a society divided in the very way that our society is becoming divided. One Amazon reviewer stated, "I enjoyed the book, however it has a socialist bent to it. The author portrays most wealthy people as bad, evil and corrupt and the only way to have a good life is if everyone lives equally. Scary considering the administration in power right now." The part she has wrong is about most wealthy people being bad, evil and corrupt. All of the characters in my books are just trying to get by in the only way they know how, no matter how much or how little they have. Theirs is a society in which the strong and corrupt are most likely to survive whether they're wealthy or not. It's truly a society in which everyone looks out for themselves. I worry that this is the path we are on, and I don't like where that path is leading us. But in the end, these books carry a message of hope. It's not too late for my characters. If a minority of people can get us into this mess, then a vocal minority can also get us out of it. It's not too late for us either.
You can learn more about S. L. Wallace and her books at her official author website. The first book in her trilogy is forever FREE everywhere ebooks are sold. The thoughts discussed in The Ed Show clip are highlighted in the third book of the Reliance on Citizens trilogy, Heart of Humanity. Each of the books can be read as stand alone novels. S. L. Wallace welcomes thoughts from readers and is happy to send anyone a free copy of her other books if they ask.