First authorized in 2010 by President Barack Obama, financed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and administered by the Louisiana Department of Education, a new program has been initiated in New Orleans that provides evening meals to local school children from low-income families. The balanced meals are prepared by Second Harvest and served at seven sites, including three after-school programs, in "at risk" areas at a cost of $2.72 per meal. A recent article in the Times-Picayune describes the program which hopes to serve 1,200 children by the end of the school year.
The article also recounts a few troubling things, some of which concern me a little bit, too.
Don't get me wrong -- I have no problem contributing to the nutrition of children and families in need. The private sector does a pretty good job of addressing the problem -- Second Harvest is among that number, and we have regularly contributed to help it stay afloat. We did the same for Potluck while living in Little Rock. Public schools have done fairly well with breakfast and lunch programs, too, with glaring exceptions such as the recent North Carolina Nazi Food Police, and the ketchup-as-vegetable debacle, among other things. And, I understand and recognize that there is genuine hunger out there, even in these United States. But . . . .
But. One of the children featured in the article, 9 year-old Lawrence, is said to have a full belly at 6:00 when his mother picks him up now from his after-school program instead of a growling one. An active 9 year-old boy could be hungry at 6:00 in the evening? Well, duh!
Did Lawrence's family not have enough money to buy food and prepare it at home? The article suggests that the family was perfectly capable of feeding itself:
Sometimes his dad would be cooking a pot of something at home. If his father was working late at Lowe's, they might grab fast food.
But, now there's no nightly rush to feed Lawrence. Between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m., he and the 50 other children at the North Rampart Community Center sit down and eat a healthy meal, complete with fresh fruit.
There's no need to tend to one's child's needs. The government will see to that. And, the government will determine what, where, and when the children will eat.
And, what about the impact of this program on families? Even a principal at one of the schools was concerned about detracting from family time around the dinner table engendered by the program. She abandoned that concern, however, when she realized that few families at her school actually shared evening meals at home together, "recounting overheard conversations between students and parents, debating whether to stop at McDonald's or Burger King on the way home."
What?!? They couldn't sit down together at a fast food joint and have a family meal? Or take the fast food home and share it along with conversation about their day? Fast food every day isn't the best way to eat, but it's certainly a way when time is short.
So, it appears that the overarching concern here is not actual, debilitating hunger, or the significance of the nuclear family -- it appears to be all about what goes into the family's mouth. And government needs to make that decision. And the taxpayer needs to foot the bill.
Not only does the government have an aching need to tell us what to eat, this program also models to children that they can rely on the government to tend to their "needs," wherever. That same concerned principal who was won over to the feeding program noticed that at least one-third of the students take the meals home. There is speculation that maybe the meal is taken home to eat with the family, or to give to Grandma, or for Dad's lunch at work the next day.
The meals are intended for children, to help them be better prepared to learn by not suffering from the effects of poor nutrition. And those children see those meals going to adults elsewhere? What does this teach them? How are they being conditioned to rely on the government as they age?
What does it teach them about following rules? Or about gaming the system.
Another well-intentioned Progressive plan gone awry.
I'm beyond angry -- I'm afraid. I'm just afraid.