The Waukesha, Wisc. school board recently reversed a decision that would have ended the free lunch program for all students.
The Waukesha, Wis. school board recently did an about face regarding a free lunch program after they received widespread criticism when they announced their plan to cancel the program.
Members of the Waukesha, Wis. school board recently faced criticism when they opted out of a federal free lunch plan for all students.
Waukesha, Wis. was the only school district in the state that voted to return to free or reduced lunch only for underprivileged students as opposed to the federal program that provided free school lunch for all students because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Initially, school board member Karin Rajnicek said that the free lunch program made it easy for families to “become spoiled” by the program.
Earlier this week, assistant superintendent for business services Darren Clark said that there might be a “slow addiction” to the free school lunch for all program.
“As we get back to whatever you want to believe normal means, we have decisions to make. I would say this is part of normalization,” said school board president, Joseph Como, Jr.
According to The Root, “The universal [free lunch] program is an extension of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Seamless Summer Option, which will provide free meals to all students through June 30, 2022…”
Many people criticized the board’s decision because of dire predictions about food insecurity for the new school year.
Feeding America reported that they predict 13 million children will deal with food insecurity this year.
Furthermore, Feeding America reported that African-American, Hispanic and Native American children would be disproportionately affected.
At a rally to protest the board’s decision, rally organizer David Dringenburg said, “By opting out of this free federal meal program, they have taken away meals from families that are in the in-between. They might not qualify for free and reduced lunches but could still use a helping hand, and we want to help families in the school district, and we feel our presence here will help do that.”
Jess Huinker, an executive assistant for the school district, said she noticed in the past that some students did not eat during school because they failed to qualify for free or reduced lunch because their parents did not apply for the program.
Huinker said, “We have seen kids that don’t eat.”
Now, with the reversal in policy, all students in Waukesha, Wis. will get decent meals while at school free of charge.
The Associated Press reported, “A Wisconsin school district has reversed a decision to leave a federal free meals program following widespread criticism and loud protests from parents and others
“Waukesha school board members said they received threats in the wake of national attention after voting to opt out of the program that was providing free breakfast and lunch to all students and response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The board voted 5-4 on Monday to reverse course.”
Patti Habek, president and CEO of Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, said, “No child should be hungry. Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin sees the crisis created by the pandemic every day. We salute the Waukesha Board of Education’s decision to provide all children healthy school meals.”
ABC News affiliate WBAY reported, “Roughly half a million eastern Wisconsinites are facing hunger, including a 29 percent increase in child hunger over pre-pandemic numbers. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provided the USDA the ability to issue nationwide waivers to increase flexibilities on how meals are served to children—both in school and during the summer. The USDA has issued numerous nationwide waivers to make it as easy as possible for children to receive these meals. As a result of these waivers, schools and other sponsors are creatively feeding kids to follow local health guidelines and allow for social distancing.”
Unfortunately, food insecurity impacts one in six children, meaning that 18 percent of young children do not have adequate access to consistent food at home.
According to FeedingAmerica.org, “In all 50 states and Washington, D.C., the estimated rate of child food insecurity is higher than the rate of overall food insecurity. Although households with children have slightly larger median incomes on average, they may also experience greater budgetary constraints, due to larger household sizes and the fact that some household members are dependent on caregivers.
“Whereas overall food insecurity at the state level ranges from seven percent in North Dakota to 20 percent in Mississippi, rates among children range from nine percent in North Dakota to 26 percent in New Mexico. Among congressional districts, rates of child food insecurity span a similar range—a low of nine percent (about 19,000 children) in affluent districts like Virginia’s 10th bordering Washington, D.C. to a high of 29 percent (more than 51,000 children) in Mississippi’s second, home to the city of Jackson.”
Statistics from FeedingAmerica.org also show that 85 percent of U.S. counties with high rates of child food insecurity are in rural areas of the country.
In the nation’s two largest cities, New York City and Los Angeles, there are 800,000 children dealing with food insecurity.
Unfortunately, food insecurity amongst children leads to other problems, even outside of the classroom, for those students such as poor child health and poor behavioral outcomes at every age.
Children dealing with food insecurity often suffer from stunted development, anemia, asthma, oral health problems as well as hospitalization.
Furthermore, lower reading and arithmetic test scores have been linked to food insecurity.