Monday, August 04, 2014

Jeanette Jaquish: Necessity or Complacency in FWCS Free Food Program?

LPAC Vice Chair Jeanette Jaquish, issued an Editorial last month questioning the reasoning and motives behind Fort Wayne Community Schools enveloping of all students into the free lunch and breakfast programs, made available through certain Federal Grants and funding loopholes.

Personally I will agree with her that the Fort Wayne Community School Board of Trustees willingness to pay almost five dollars a gallon for their milk program and not seeking out other format sources for competitive bidding is a little disheartening and should also make people weary of what else they rubber stamp "because, because" etc., but she didnt even bring that fiscal responsibility issue up.
"•Approved the sole bid of $1,722,855 from Prairie Farms Dairy to provide the estimated 5.7 million half pints of milk that FWCS and 12 private schools will serve next school year. The board also approved bids totaling $3.278 million from three food companies to provide the meat, produce and staples used to prepare school lunches."
  
FWCS fosters dependence through free-meal plan

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Where the Red Fern Grows,” “Bridge Over Terabithia,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” even “Harry Potter” – all have characters in poverty who either refuse or are ashamed to take charity. What will schools do with those books now?
I am deeply disturbed by the unanimous vote of the Fort Wayne Community Schools board to give free breakfast and lunch to all students in elementary through middle school through the Community Eligibility Provision of the Department of Agriculture. I think meals at home are important for families to communicate, bond and learn life skills, as well as show the kids that parents take care of them. I did not like it before when kids who ate breakfast at home had to wait on the bus 15 minutes while the school breakfasting children ate inside, but this is worse. I get up at5:30 a.m.to make hash browns and eggs, 30 minutes later for cold cereal. If I didn't have to make breakfast, would I get up just in time to say goodbye? Or at all?
It is ludicrous. Middle-income and wealthy kids do not need tax-funded free breakfast and lunch. FWCS Superintendent Wendy Robinson said, “This was strictly based on it is the right thing to do.” She says some families are too busy to eat well, and that school meals are the only nutritious meals some children get. I say, “So teach the kids how to make nutritious meals.” A small child can pour a bowl of whole-grain cereal and peel a banana. A 5-year-old can make toast, grate cheese and cut up an orange. An 8-year-old can cook oatmeal or blend a fruit smoothie. A 10-year-old should be able to fry eggs and potatoes. These are skills to be proud of and build upon, and those are inexpensive healthy foods.
I look at the nice cars in the school parking lot and the many overweight children, and I do not think our local population is so absolutely helpless that our government needs to provide free cooked food.
For half my life I was very poor. I learned resourcefulness, and there is not a day that I do not appreciate what I have now. The philosophy behind this CEP program will lead to equalizing everyone and weakening the individual.
Finally, I am disturbed by the unanimous approval. I watched FWCS's next board meeting, and the chair does not even pause after asking for the nays: “All in favor? (pause) Nays?-Motion carries.”
And of course people have responded in kind. Here are some excerpts with links:

EMILY RICO: Statistics indicate that in 2012,23.4 percent of Allen County children younger than 18 lived in poverty. Recent figures indicate that some level of poverty exists in all Fort Wayne ZIP codes.
The Community Eligibility Provision of the US Department of Agriculture school lunch program is an option when more than 40 percent of a school district’s students are certified to receive free/reduced lunches. In 2013, 70.5 percent of FWCS students qualified. FWCS had more than 200 homeless children in its school population. Without free meals at school, many of these children would come to school without breakfast, and some would not have lunch. While it is important to teach responsibility, what is being taught (or learned) at school when a child can think of nothing but his gnawing stomach?
Children can and do endure unfortunate family circumstances and grow up to overcome and better their conditions. But perhaps we can make the way a little easier for someone else in need. The success of all is beneficial to society generally. 

KRISTIN STARK HUFF: ..... Children are at the complete mercy of the adults who surround them. Teaching kids to make their own meals is fine, but the adults in many kids’ lives are too unstable to do so, regardless of their income bracket. Whether they don’t have food in the morning because they are too busy, too poor or too unstable does not matter. Breakfast is essential to developing brains.
Making sure that as many kids as possible eat before and during school is a smart decision for FWCS. Kids who eat a nutritious breakfast and lunch are better able to sit still, pay attention and learn. This results in better test scores, stronger enrollment and better funding for the schools, which benefits all FWCS kids. Better-educated kids result in a stronger workforce and rising level of education and stability for our community.....

KATHLEEN KEARNS: .... The books she referred to that she believes model the correct way to handle poverty are all fiction. FWCS is reality. Not just when school is in session. These children belong to us 365 days a year.
I am a retired teacher, having served 25 years, .....
Nutritious food is undeniably more expensive than junk food. Recently I purchased enough food to make four dinners, and it cost $67. That provides four well-balanced, highly nutritious meals for one person. The families of whom Jaquish spoke cannot afford that. They are working two and three jobs trying to pay for housing, keep gas in the tank and clothing on their children’s backs.
And while they are doing that, their children are at home alone during the day. Jaquish suggests that children prepare their own meals. I would not want a 5-year-old making toast alone or cutting up an orange as she suggests. I have 10-year old grandchildren whom I would not want at the stove making eggs and potatoes while the adults are away from the house.

PATTI MURZYN: (in response to the original news story)
..... advise Wendy Robinson that there is no such thing as a “free” lunch (or breakfast). .....
.... The article noted the board had approved a little over $5 million for milk meat, produce and staples for school lunches. The students may think they eat for free, but the $5 million bids are proof that it is not “free.”
..... Really? We are all busy, but using “I’m too busy” makes these individuals victims rather than people in serious need of a meal. Those families need to look at priorities and manage their time better instead of asking taxpayers to cover these school meals. This is an extremely poor use of our tax dollars. And now they no longer need to fill out applications (too busy?) for “free” taxpayer-provided meals? Where and how will there be accountability for the tax dollars used? How do you know who is still eligible?
It was also noted that due to a change in an application process “the district will have to develop a new process to help eligible parents apply for free textbooks for their students.” Again, these are not “free,” these textbooks are costing the taxpayers money.....
I know it’s not popular, but there needs to be “ownership” for these individuals so that they take responsibility and show gratitude for the things given to them (and now they don’t even need to complete paperwork). The students (and parents) need to understand they are receiving these meals and books at no charge to them because the costs are being covered out of taxes taken from others so it only appears to be “free” to them. Things that are “free” are generally not as well cared for and rarely appreciated.

 I will add more editorial responses as they come across my purview.

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