This issue has gone on for as long as I have been aware.
When was in 10th grade in 1971, we lived with my father’s mother. Grandma had possibly the biggest heart of anybody I ever knew. She shared her love for everyone in too many ways to count, but the most constant was cooking for people.
She was the cook at Fourche Valley Schools, a school that covered a huge area in very rural Arkansas. Perhaps there were 150 kids in grades K to 12. I remember her getting into hot water with the Superintendant because she would always make more food than was, in his opinion, required to provide the kids with a noontime lunch. She told me she was going to continue to do so until she got fired because for many of the kids, it was the only meal they got during the day.
Unfortunately, the same thing happens to a lot of kids now. Probably has been that way forever.
I heard a Republican politician say that he just didn’t see the return on the investment in providing food to kids. Sometimes, these utterances are just too baffling to be believed. But last year, Republicans introduced a bill that could have potentially blocked thousands of schools from offering free lunch to all public school students. And then Betsy Devos, our new Secretary of Education Besty (Cruella Deville ) DeVoss uses the issue in a joke.
Return on investment? Ok, how about this: When kids are hungry, they don’t learn as well. But, maybe that doesn’t alter their thinking, because it seems Republicans want to make it so that only those who can pay for education can get it.
The school voucher idea will effectively kill public education and will leave untold millions of kids from poor families with no little or no chance of making a better place for themselves in the world. That is, I suppose, the natural result of Social Darwinism, which is the direct result of the purse selfishness, elimination of taxes and regulations and promotion of laissez-faire economy proclaimed by Ayn Rand, and adopted by her disciples, Alan Greenspan and Paul Ryan.
But, I find it interesting that Ms. Self Sufficient Rand in the end took Social Security. More appalling is that Paul Ryan, who saved social security payments he received as a result of his father’s death to help him attend college, now wants to dismantle a lot of these protections.
It seems to me that, while most politicians at the federal level are rich (Ryan $7.8 million, Mitch McConnell $17 million, the Clintons maybe $100 million and Obama maybe $40 million), they are different in the following way: Democrats remember from whence they came while Republicans do not. Or maybe it is that Democrats have empathy for those less fortunate, while Republicans seem only seem to care when it is a family member or close friend who is hurting.
Forget return on investment—feed kids because they are hungry. That should be all that is needed for those who claim to be the party of Godliness and Family Values. Jesus taught, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me “—Matthew 25:40. But, apparently, no amount of repeating the words of Christ will get these self-proclaimed and only-true Christians to budge.
Yeah, I know, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Last Thursday, I was walking to get some rubbing alcohol at the downtown convenience store when a homeless man asked me for a couple of dollars. I never give cash anymore, but I did offer to buy him some food. He accepted and we walked to the nearby Domino’s Pizza, which has a really good deals for under $8. He ordered and got a pop and the total was about $18. A little surprised by the cost, I asked how it was so much more than the special. The worker said it was because this man ordered a Supreme and that was not in the special and I could ask him to change his order. How could I do that? I paid the bill and shook the homeless person’s hand as I left. Was he entitled to the free lunch? No, but in agreeing to provide it, I felt like I do whenever I offer to take a friend to lunch or dinner: if I pick the restaurant, I am not going to limit what my friend can buy. (The only time this bit me was when my son ordered Surf & Turf without us knowing the cost. Oh well.)
We are, if we claim to be a follower of any religion or, without that, a humanitarian—responsible for our fellow human beings. If someone needs a meal, feed them, if they are cold, clothe them, if the need bus fare, provide it. No, I know, we cannot do everything for everyone and that we have to place limits in order to take care our ourselves and our families, but we can make small differences in people’s lives, differences that mean a lot to them and almost nothing to us who are more fortunate. It does make me feel guilty not to give to all, but, I cannot, probably because I do not have enough faith, I am not like the birds of the field who are taken care of by God—I sow and reap and put away (see Matthew 6:26).
It is a shame that in this richest of all countries, there is anyone, much less kids, who are hungry, but there are. As Jesus also said, we will always have the poor with us. What he did not say is that because this is so, we do not need to help.
We need to make sure all kids in school get to eat and get to do so without being shamed. It is the decent thing to do. Shame on those who disagree, who look for a return on the investment.