School lunch file

Sharon Eburg serves lunch to Urbana Middle School students in the school’s cafeteria in October 2021. With the federal universal free lunch program, which was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ending before the school year begins, FCPS officials have expressed concerns about how some of their students will be affected by the change.

With universal access to free school meals set to expire, Frederick County Public Schools employees are preparing to manage confusion among students and families who haven’t had to pay for lunch in two years.

Since March 2020 — when the pandemic closed schools and worsened food insecurity nationwide — students of any income level have been able to get cafeteria lunches for free thanks to federal waivers. But, amid pushback from congressional Republicans, that provision will end before the 2022-23 school year begins.

Follow Jillian Atelsek on Twitter: @jillian_atelsek

Education reporter

Jillian Atelsek covers education for The Frederick News-Post. She grew up near Woodsboro, attended Walkersville High School and graduated from the University of Maryland in 2020 with degrees in journalism and history.

(42) comments

mrnatural1

MD,

I checked out the PBS link. It says (in part):

"Paying farmers not to grow crops was a substitute for agricultural price support programs designed to ensure that farmers could always sell their crops for enough to support themselves. The price support program meant that farmers had to incur the expense of plowing their fields, fertilizing, irrigating, spraying, and harvesting them, and then selling their crops to the government, which stored them in silos until they either rotted or were consumed by rodents. It was much cheaper just to pay farmers not to grow the crops in the first place."

We have family members in Iowa who farm. They are far from rich. Some years they do really well, but other years all they have is their crop insurance benefit (which they pay for).

I would look at corporate agriculture (Big Ag) before small family farmers.

Price support programs are an interesting subject, but if the FNP comment section used forum software -- which it should -- I'd suggest we start a new thread for it.

WRT meals at public schools, I think we can all agree that kids need proper nutrition. It makes sense to at least make breakfast and lunch available. The only question is, who pays? The current means tested system seems fine. Parents who can afford it pay the full amount (which may not even be true cost). Those who are in lower income brackets qualify for reduced cost or free meals for their kids. That's reasonable.

I'm a big fan of means testing. People who are well-off should not be receiving anything (or very little) of value for free. That includes tuition. Above a certain income level, people should begin to contribute toward the cost of their child's education. Every benefit; credit; deduction and/or exemption that a higher income person or couple gets must be paid for by everyone else -- and many of those people have modest incomes.

mrnatural1

Gather 'round good citizens... [cool]

There are good points made below, from both ends of the political spectrum:

1) As mammals, it turns out kids need food to survive, as well as learn.

2) Children should not be punished for the actions of their parents.

3) No one should get anything for free or reduced cost, if they (or in this case, their parents, can afford to pay. I'd include tuition in that.

4) There should be no stigma attached to free/reduced cost meals.

5) FredCo, America, and the planet are grossly overpopulated. We should not be encouraging people to have kids -- certainly not any more than they can afford.

There is nothing wrong with asking people apply online for benefits. It need not be time consuming. Just a few simple questions.

Without applying, the default is paying full price.

As far as I know, students have cards that they pay with. No one knows how much (if anything) they are paying -- so stigma does not exist. It's a non-issue.

There can be no doubt that we need to gradually, *voluntarily*, slow, stop, and reverse population growth -- until we reach our sustainable population level of about 150-175 million. Needless to say, that will take a LONG time, but we need to start now. The last thing we need to do is encourage people to have even more children.

That said, there is of course a huge problem -- the last thing we want to do is punish kids. So if a a couple, who cannot afford to have children, has (say) 6 or 8 kids, we are obviously going to care for them. They are going to receive free meals at school (and much, much more). Everyone knows that, including the parents -- so they are not incentivized to have just 1 or 2 (or none).

In order to get people to be responsible about reproducing, we need the equivalent of the old anti-drug PSAs -- run on social media and mass media -- informing potential parents of the reality of being responsible for another human(s). For example, raising a child to age 18 costs about $250,000 (without college tuition). Also, forget the "single life" -- parties; concerts; clubs; hanging with friends; sleeping late on weekends; vacations, etc. That all goes bye-bye.

Like every other gov't benefit, school meals should be means-tested. That's at a bare minimum. If a couple is making well into 6 figures, they can pay the full cost of their kids' education. After all, the more they pay, the more tax money is left for necessary programs and services for families who truly need it.

MD1756

[thumbup] but at some point I'd be for forced sterilization. No one this day and age should be having 6 - 8 children even if they can afford it unless the 3rd child and those after are adopted. As long as there are children available for adoption, insurance should not cover fertility treatments, IVF, etc.

mrnatural1

MD,

I'd say let's try the PSAs I mentioned first. That and education.

There is *some* good news regarding population. Several developed countries currently have *negative* or zero population growth. The population of the U.S. is unfortunately still growing, but at a slower rate than in the past.

As you undoubtedly know, the bulk of the projected world population growth is going to come from just a handful of countries -- almost all poor, many in Africa. It's those places where education of women has been shown to make a huge difference in the birthrate.

I'd like to see PSAs regarding the sacrifices and cost involved with raising children. That and following the immigration policy advice of the late great civil rights leader Barbara Jordan and her presidential commission.

Hopefully those things would make anything more coercive unnecessary.

MrSniper

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.

MD1756

Apology accepted MrSniper.

MrSniper

You have the power & moral authority to reduce the population by 1. Start with yourself.

MD1756

You first. I've actually helped the planet through a number of my actions. I suppose you've probably done nothing to help and have probably made things worse.

threecents

MD1756 argues against tax dollars for kids - to lower the surplus population, and I see the point. We really do need to lower the world's population, but would reducing benefits for kids really lower the world's population? I would rather err on the side of being too generous to kids.

MD1756

threecents, I do not argue against tax dollars being spent on children (i.e., education). I most certainly argue against those with no children having to pay more in taxes simply because we have no children and as I've pointed out, roughly 50% of the MD state and local budgets goes towards education alone. Why should parents get a tax break for placing such a high burden on governmental services? Again, I have no problem helping children who did not cause the problems, but I don't want to help the parents who are irresponsible (which means I am willing to help parents who have had a Temporary setback or their child has had major medical needs that have drained their income and those medical needs did not come from self inflicted issues such as drug addiction). Help the children yes, but make they parents pay somehow, even if it is make them "volunteer" in the schools (or elsewhere) a certain number of hours per week based upon the services they are getting. I'd even be ok with the government setting up accounts for children that the parents cannot touch rather than giving parents cash or SNAP cards, etc. For example, if children are getting free meals (breakfast and lunch at least) then SNAP benefits should be reduced for the parents. I've seen a mother buying "Lunchables" for their child/children using a SNAP card and that's ridiculous. What's also ridiculous is government subsidies to farmers (crop and more so livestock) to essentially destroy crops (see: https://www.greenmatters.com/p/government-paying-farmers-destroy-crops) where the site says "Is the government really paying farmers to destroy crops? Basically, farmers are not eligible for government subsidies if they are not actively raising animals or growing crops — so it’s more profitable for them to continue business as usual, but trash berries, milk, and even animals instead. So no, the government is not forcing farmers to destroy crops or animals. However, the current agricultural system makes it so that many farmers have no other choice but to destroy their product, otherwise they will lose money." In 2016 the subsidies to meat and dairy farmers was about $38 billion and to crop farmers it was about $17 million (yes there is a billion to million difference). To put that into perspective, the U.S. EPA's FY 2016 enacted budget was $8,139,887,000 or less that 22% of the subsidy to meat and dairy farmers.

mrnatural1

MD,

The article you linked is a bit confusing. The author makes the statements you quoted, but then seems to suggest they came from TikTok conspiracies:

"For instance, TikTok creator and farmer, @neflyinfarmer, posted a video earlier this month showing a letter and binders that the USDA allegedly sent him, ordering him to destroy his crops. But when he shows the USDA letterhead, it’s marked January 2018 — a fact that many users pointed out in the comments, calling the creator out for fake news. Even though the video spread misinformation, as it was viewed nearly 700,000 times, fortunately, the creator does make it clear in the comments that he was joking."

I know for a fact that the gov't does sometimes pay farmers NOT to grow certain crops, and there are plenty of subsidies.

Ranchers like Clive Bundy can lease BLM land for a huge discount from market rates.

Then of course there is all of the corporate welfare that often gets overlooked.

MD1756

I can see where it gets confusing, but the confusing part is some claim the government is forcing farmers to destroy crops and/or animals which technically it is not. As the article points out though, farmers (at least in the past) do not get subsidies unless they are growing something and thus they grow and the government buys it and lets it rot rather than bring it to market and drive the prices down. With newer subsidies, farmer are being paid simply to not farm (take some of their land out of production). The government first provided the financial incentive to do grow crops that would not go to market and now they are just paying farmers to take land out of production. Here are some additional sources on subsidies ... For crops: https://www.governing.com/now/the-biden-administration-will-pay-farmers-more-money-not-to-farm
For dairy: https://www.realagriculture.com/2018/02/u-s-dairy-subsidies-equal-73-percent-of-producer-returns-says-new-report/ or see: https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/american-dairy-farmers-depend-on-government-subsidies-1015126442?op=1
In general, see: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/economy/why-does-the-govt-pay-farmers and see https://www.nationofchange.org/2022/01/12/meat-and-dairy-gobble-up-farming-subsidies-worldwide-which-is-bad-for-your-health-and-the-planet/ also see: https://jia.sipa.columbia.edu/removing-meat-subsidy-our-cognitive-dissonance-around-animal-agriculture where the Journal of International Affairs writes "According to recent studies, the U.S. government spends up to $38 billion each year to subsidize the meat and dairy industries, with less than one percent of that sum allocated to aiding the production of fruits and vegetables. Most agricultural subsidies go to farmers of livestock and a handful of major crops, including corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, and cotton, with payments skewed toward the largest producers. Corn and soy inputs, in particular, are heavily subsidized crops for the production of meat and processed food by some of the world’s largest meat and dairy corporations. These farm subsidy programs supplement adverse fluctuations in revenues and production, and purchase farmers’ insurance coverage, product marketing, export sales, and research and development. This means that while shoppers pay lower immediate prices at the checkout counter, their tax dollars fund major meat operations and advertising. Meanwhile, meat and dairy producers accrue yearly retail sales to the tune of 250 billion dollars."

AOC

They houlds add one addition condition.

Families with a yearly household income equal to or lower than 130% of the federal poverty level — about $36,000 for a family of four — will qualify for free meals. AND THE STUDENT DOES NOT HAVE A SMARTPHONE.

Dwasserba

Yes, let’s punish children socially for their parent’s lower income status.

Sam1934

Exactly. Also I imagine some of those kids need a phone for safety reasons.

Dwasserba

😣

shiftless88

Typical republican; we send billions of subsidies and provide billions/trillions in tax breaks to multi-billion dollar corporations and you are concerned about whether or not that hungry kid has a smartphone before you shell out $2.90. I'm surprised you are okay with providing them a free lunch if they own their own pair of shoes. Here is a thought: kids to not control their finances nor their financial situation.

Sam1934

[thumbup][thumbup]

threecents

You can get smart phone plans for about $125/year via tracfone. Their phones are also cheap.

Greg F

Not to mention, without kids in school any longer (mine paid for lunch, always), to now see that everyone gets everything free is rather disturbing. I would like to keep my taxes lower by not having to pay for those who can actually afford it, and not have to pay for three squares of someone else's meals because they have an uncontrollable need to reproduce when they can't afford it....not the issue if they could and are now out of luck, but some having multiples when they know they never will afford it ever...well....I hate to be cruel, but not everyone can succeed in this world by making bad decisions. For others to pay for bad decisions is just something I'm not really all that willing to do.

Dwasserba

Greg. But it is “cruel” to some children who have no control, so you are choosing a “side” you “hate.”

KMcHugh

What is disturbing about it? First, it's a little hard to see how your children, who received a free education but paid $2 for lunch, are really getting that much less than children who are getting a free education and not paying $2 for lunch. That doesn't seem like a sea-change in people suddenly getting everything for free. But let me return to, why is that disturbing? I want children to be fed. I find cavalier attitudes towards hungry children disturbing, but I don't find it disturbing that a community might want to invest in its children. I see that you're concerned about paying for something from which you're not benefiting, but I think of it differently. Investing in children's future is a benefit to all of us because their future is our future. Who do you want to be surrounded by in 20 years? Well-educated, well-adjusted, capable adults? Or poorly-educated, poorly-adjusted, struggling adults who were allowed to slip through the cracks as children? I want these children to succeed because I want a community of successful adults.

phydeaux994

Welcome KMcHugh, and thanks for a comment that addresses the situation that exists. Starting with “I want children to be fed” you expressed what I think but didn’t know how to say it as you did.

LAR1

School is for education, not for feeding the kids of irresponsible parents. If you cannot afford to have kids, don’t have them. Stop using my hard-earned taxpayer dollars to feed the kids of irresponsible parents. At the least, the parents should be required to perform a volunteer service at the school to earn the meals - cleaning, hall monitor, etc. Oh, I forgot, that would be work.

shiftless88

So, LAR1, I am guessing you must be a passionate supporter of abortion rights. Correct?

LAR1

Of course! Abortion is medical care and the government should not dictate medical care. It is a private decision between patient and physician. Maybe the government should also ban erectile dysfunction medications as that would lessen the need for abortions.

KMcHugh

I agree that school is for education, but it's incredibly hard to learn when you're hungry. We're already paying for their textbooks, their teachers, the buildings (that we legally require them to go to!)--why *not* pay for their lunches? If we really want to make good on the money we're paying for their education, then I think we need to be fully committed to seeing these children succeed. Children succeed when they're fed.

We all benefit from investing in children's future because it's our future too. In 20 years, who do you want to be surrounded by? Well-educated, well-adjusted adults, or poorly-educated, poorly-adjusted adults who were allowed to slip through the cracks as children?

>>Oh, I forgot, that would be work.

You might be interested in looking through the United Way of Frederick County's ALICE Report. You'll see that the reality for many people in Frederick County is that they ARE working and they're STILL poor.

fnpreader123

Wow, those prices are pretty cheap. I paid 3 times that 20 years ago. How do the schools afford that, is it just part of the budget?

Greg F

I know...my school lunch was at least a buck back in the 1970s. This garbage free stuff just has to stop somewhere.

mikebinkley2022

Congressional Republicans: We will force pregnancies, but not help care for the resulting children.

Frankle1

This is so frustrating. We send billions overseas and 800+ billion on military and we can't guarantee every child a lunch? Making parents who are already stressed and likely jumping through hoops in the system fill out more paperwork to prove need for a lunch is ridiculous. Offer it to every kid so there is no stigma. We should be able to figure this out. It was so beneficial to so many children!

Dwasserba

Frankle1 💕

Sam1934

Yes!

Greg F

Those prices are dirt cheap. Need to stop the freebies for all and limit to true need. No such thing as a free lunch. We all pay for it. Prices could go up to help cover actual costs too.

MrSniper

Maybe instead of 11 aircraft carriers this country could get by with 10. Maybe then things like this wouldn’t seem so “unaffordable”.

Greg F

If the wealthy paid their fair share, we'd be fine. They don't. GOP keeps that from happening. As no-tax Agent Orange.

MD1756

Public education for children represents roughly 50% of the state and local budgets in Maryland. We should be making the parents pay their fair share. At the very least, they should not be given income tax deductions and credits for having children. We do not need to encourage human population growth with all of the problems we humans are causing on and to the planet.

joelp77440

We actually had 12 carrier strike groups for a very long time, we now have 11 but in reality the US only has 10 (until the USS Gerald R. Ford's group is completely active).

MD1756

And the true need should be due to temporary causes and not continued poor decisions by the parents (such as having more children than they can afford). Help the children, but make the parents pay through any of several ways.

LAR1

👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻

Greg F

Got that right...except that the RRR all want to ban one of the things that a potential parent can use to stop having kids...RRR doesn't care what happens to them once they have unwanted kids..after all, it keeps them down and without power to improve themselves that way.

AOC

Right On!

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