Honestly, just cancel every child’s school lunch debt

Earlier this month, an Arkansas man named Dustin Wright raised nearly $8,000 to pay off the school lunch debt of students at his town’s local high school. Wright’s generous act displays a level of altruism that every human being should aspire to, but as kind as it was, the circumstances surrounding the need for him to perform the act are unnecessary.

School lunch debt should not exist.

Students, especially those still in elementary school, should not have to worry about going hungry in the event that their family cannot afford to cover the expenses of their school lunch. Even further, they shouldn’t be shamed, ridiculed and punished for such a thing, as seen in Minnesota, where students were threatened with the prospect of not walking the stage at graduation unless they paid their lunch debt.

The School Nutrition Association (SNA) found that three-fourths of school districts report having unpaid school lunch debt. SNA also found that this debt is more common in schools where fewer students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, with nearly 91% of these schools reporting as such.

As figures like these come into view, the Trump administration has proposed a new rule that would limit the number of people who qualify for food stamps, which if put into effect would disqualify an estimated 500,000 students from having access to free school lunch.

A limit to these programs would only hurt the less fortunate. In 2018, 30 million children received free meals through the National School Lunch Program, which currently provides meals to students living at or below 130% of the poverty line, which is an annual salary of $25,750 for families of four.

The Trump administration’s proposal is unnecessary. In America’s current economy, far too many people are already food insecure — in 2018, 37.2 million people lived in food-insecure households, around 50% of college students are currently starving and in 2017, one in four American children were dependent on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a federal assistance program that provides benefits to low-income families and individuals.

The programs and policies that are already set in place in the United States aren’t doing an adequate job at combating food insecurity in the nation, so a limit on these programs benefits no one, especially the school-aged children that any limits would effect. The concept of school lunch debt certainly isn’t helping either, and there should be programs or policies enacted to quell its effects, if not end them altogether.

America has its priorities mistaken. Instead of taxpayer money going toward prisons or Super Bowl advertisements, perhaps money should be allocated toward making sure every child has a meal to eat when attending public institutions. By itself, food security in children can vastly improve a child’s learning skills and cognitive development, and even reverse developmental delays.

Investing in children’s nutrition is investing in a better future for America.

Photo courtesy of NBC News

Originally published at http://www.thelariatonline.com on October 28, 2019.

I study American History at Howard University. I like to write sometimes.

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