No Child Should Work for Food
By Nina Keehan
Ray Canterbury, a Republican member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, recently proposed that children should have to work for their free school lunches, an addition he wanted included in the Feed to Achieve Act (Senate Bill 663). The bill, which passed by overwhelming majority without his additions, makes breakfast and lunch available for free to every K-12 student in West Virginia through foundations that collect private donations and grants.
"I think it would be a good idea if perhaps we had the kids work for their lunches: trash to be taken out, hallways to be swept, lawns to be mowed, make them earn it,” Canterbury said during the debate. “If they miss a lunch or they miss a meal they might not, in that class that afternoon, learn to add, they may not learn to diagram a sentence, but they'll learn a more important lesson.”
Although Canterbury's proposal was roundly criticized by his fellow delegates, with both Republicans and Democrats voicing opposition, the controversial idea continues received national media attention, and the general public has continued the debate.
The government’s efforts to improve child nutrition through school feeding programs, as the Feed to Achieve Act aims to do, should be supported by all lawmakers who want students to excel regardless of their family’s income. Kids who eat breakfast and lunch perform better in school and have fewer behavioral issues in class, putting them in a better position to succeed.
The last thing we need to do is make it harder for the kids who need assistance to get it. Already, child nutrition programs don’t reach everyone who needs them. Today, 20.6 million schoolchildren receive free or reduced-price lunches, but 11 million of those don’t receive any breakfast assistance. Having a “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” mentality will keep millions of America’s children from realizing their true potential.
Nina Keehan, a media relations intern at Bread for the World, is a senior magazine journalism and public health dual major at Syracuse University.
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