School children need full stomachs to learn
Public school officials are seeking a way to feed students when their parents don't pay for their lunches.
CHILDREN cannot concentrate on school work if they are hungry, and refusing them lunch because their parents haven't given them money
punishes the wrong party.
Though setting a standard policy to deal with the issue is necessary, public schools should neither deny students the midday meal nor subject them to the humiliation of a bread-and-water diet.
Meanwhile, parents who repeatedly and wantonly fail to pay or to provide their children with a brown-bag lunch should be reported to authorities, as one member of the Board of Education has suggested, since that might be an indication of deeper family problems.
The federal government requires public schools to feed children nutritious, low-cost meals, but some students -- mostly at the elementary level -- come to school without money. When this happens, children are fed a regular lunch, and parents are notified and asked to pay the $1 charge.
However, after repeated notification and nonpayment, some schools serve children "alternative" lunches, which usually consist of crackers, bread or a roll and juice, milk or water. The stripped-down meal does not supply enough nutrition and is demeaning to a blameless child.
Some teachers and school staff members routinely pay for children's lunches out of their own pockets, bring in food for children or use money provided by PTAs. But such benevolence can't be counted on indefinitely.
Though children from low-income families might qualify for discounted or free meals, some parents, typically recent immigrants, might not be aware of the available aid. School officials should do their best to help them fill out the necessary paperwork.
Education officials and the school board are working on a statewide policy to avoid having to serve minimal lunches and to define what the lunches will consist of.
That's fine, but they don't resolve the problem of parents who can afford to pay, but don't.
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