Free food?

If you were listening this morning to The 8 o’clock Hour, you heard Todd’s conversation with Janet Poppendieck, author of Free for All: Fixing School Food in America. (You can hear that conversation at our news page.) Poppendieck will be giving a talk at the Kingston Middle School Cafeteria in Potsdam on Thursday, February 10 at 7 pm. This is a free, public event organized by GardenShare ( NCPR is media sponsor for the event.

Talk about a timely topic. I had just finished listening to Poppendieck as I opened the NY Times and saw this article.

Poppendieck presents an interesting economic–as well as healthy living–perspective on school meals. She argues, among other things, that universal free meals (breakfast and/or lunch) makes sense financially, given the dysfunction of our current school lunch bureaucracy.

What do you think? I’m curious about the range of opinion in our community. Seems to me that childhood nutrition is an often overlooked–though absolutely key–element of our contemporary interest in wholesome, local food.

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6 Comments on “Free food?”

  1. Pete Klein says:

    Count me as old fashioned.
    I believe it is the parents responsibility to feed their kids, not the school’s.
    When going to Catholic grade school, I always brought a lunch box or brown bagged it because we did not have a cafeteria. In Catholic high school, we did have a cafeteria but I still brown bagged it for the most part.
    If parents can’t afford to feed their kids, they shouldn’t be having kids.
    I don’t see anything wrong with a sandwich and a piece of fruit for lunch, which is still what I eat for lunch, and cereal for breakfast.
    If a parent can’t afford that, like I said, they shouldn’t have kids.
    And I am not fat like so many kids are today.

  2. Phil Harnden says:

    In her book, Poppendieck points out that families in this country once had to supply the meals for family members in the hospital. These days we take hospital meals for granted and recognize that they make sense in helping people heal. If good nutrition and a full belly help kids learn, then doesn’t it also make sense to provide healthy meals to all schoolchildren? And in addition, couldn’t providing healthy meals be an effective way to teach kids about the pleasure of eating delicious, wholesome food? If so, all of us would benefit from having a healthy citizenry.

  3. Ashley says:

    To Pete:

    “If parents can’t afford to feed their kids, they shouldn’t be having kids….And I am not fat like so many kids are today.”

    With the way the economy is sometimes things happen. You have a child, or two (You CAN afford them) and suddenly you are having a hard time feeding them. Loss of job(s), being layed off, etc. Things are very tight. I have to tell you I’ve been in that same situation. My husband and I had our first baby – we both worked full time, never struggled, and I had planned on going back to work after 6wks. Then suddenly I was layed off just a couple months before I gave birth. Thankfully things are looking up now but it doesn’t always work that way.
    And a side note about being fat. It’s not always WHAT you eat that makes you fat. It’s the lack of exercise. Kids are more or less interested in watching TV, playing the Wii, Xbox, and wathcing movies than going outside and running, swimming, joining a sport and so fourth.
    Yes, there are some kids out there that are obese due to what they eat, but that’s not always the case.


  4. Brian says:

    There was also a time when most families could afford for one parent to stay home and make lunches for the kids, among other domestic tasks. Times have changed.

  5. Pete Klein says:

    To Brian and Ashley,
    I have known some very tough times but I always consider food for myself and my family the top priority along with a roof over our head.
    If times are tough, there is such a thing as food stamps, which I admit to having used in tough times.
    As to making lunches, just how long does it take to make a sandwich?
    If times are tough, why spend money on indoor entertainment devices to keep the kids happy and overweight?
    Times have changed but the true needs of life haven’t changed.

  6. Brook says:

    do you know what the level of income has to be in order to receive Food Stamps? I do. Families can be struggling to pay for multiple bills and need a bit of assistance for food but because the amount is so low (way lower than HEAP) they aren’t able to get it. I’ve been there myself. Food Stamps is based on gross income and after taxes are taken out and bills are paid there’s barely anything left. Enough to get to work and back. I have had to ask for food from family and friends to survive and it certainly is no fun. If you have a child or multiple children it’s even harder.
    In the end. Times have changed, yes, and needs are the same, yes, but even cutting things to the bare minimum doesn’t help.

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