There is much to be outraged about in our society these days, but today I just want to single out one horrible, vile, disgusting practice that is apparently just fine with nearly half of school districts in America.
The practice is called “lunch-shaming,” and if you’re not familiar with it, here’s how it works: A student goes to school and then to the cafeteria at lunch time. They stand on line, grab a sandwich or a hamburger and some fruit or whatever. They get to the register, and if it turns out they have an outstanding balance on their account, the cafeteria workers get to do something drastic. Like take their food and throw it in the garbage. Or give the child a cold sandwich with very little in it. Or not give the child any food at all.
From this New York Times story that got me all fired up:
“The practice is widespread — a 2014 report from the Department of Agriculture found that nearly half of all districts used some form of shaming to compel parents to pay bills. (About 45 percent withheld the hot meal and gave a cold sandwich, while 3 percent denied food entirely.)
A Pennsylvania cafeteria worker posted on Facebook that she had quit after being forced to take lunch from a child with an unpaid bill. In Alabama, a child was stamped on the arm with “I Need Lunch Money.” (my addition: STAMPED ON THE ARM!???) On one day, a Utah elementary school threw away the lunches of about 40 students with unpaid food bills.
Hazel Compton, 12, remembers being given a sandwich of white bread with a slice of cheese instead of the hot lunch served to other children at her Albuquerque elementary school. (A school district spokeswoman said the sandwich met federal requirements.)
School is really, really fucking hard for some kids. There are all kinds of extra disadvantages when you’re poor, from not being able to wear nice clothes or the “cool style” to having to do homework late into the night because you had to work an after-school job to help support your family, or having to ride 2-3 buses or trains to get to a good school because the schools are terrible where you live.
School can be so, so hard. And knowing all that, knowing how painful and difficult and excruciating it can be, we still have school districts that allow employees to humiliate and disgrace children who are poor through no fault of their own.
Look, I know there’s another side to this, that school districts are underfunded, that someone has to pay for that food, etc. But come on! How about our state legislators bump up school funding so schools can help out poor families? How about lowering the limits for the free lunch program, so more families can get meals for their kids?
So many better solutions than “lunch-shaming.” What a despicable practice.
Makes me so goddamn mad.
**Next up today, grab the tissues and hold all calls for 10 minutes, this is absolutely worth your time. Jimmy Kimmel was off last week from his terrific late-night show, and Monday night in an emotional, heart-felt monologue, he explained why: His son Billy was born, only there was an immediate medical scare that had Billy fighting for his life.
Stay till the end, when he says something about saving children’s lives that, silly me, I thought 100 percent of people could agree with (nope, some were still mad at him for saying it.)
Really fantastic, raw, real stuff here from Kimmel.
**Finally today, who doesn’t love a great, horribly awkward interview starring an interviewer who has no clue about his subjects, doesn’t listen to them, then calls them by the wrong names?
I give you a five-minute masterpiece of awfulness here, folks. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez were on CNBC Tuesday to hype some charity, and were interviewed by CNBC’s Bob Pisani. Besides calling Derek “Alex” a few times, asking Jeter about the Met gala after Jeter had just said he didn’t go, and trying to cause tension between the two, everything went great.
God this is wonderfully terrible TV.