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We can bail out America's Fortune 500 giants,
but we can't bailout single moms for the
price of a hot school lunch for their kids?

When you talk about compassionate liberals (a real-life oxymoron), you certainly aren't talking about New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson who thought he wanted to be President of the United States until the people said, "I don't think so..." Then he wanted top be Secretary of Commerce in the far left "redistribute the wealth" Administration of Barack Hussein Obama“until Obama learned he was being investigated for campaign contribution quid pro quos, and Obama said, "I don't think so." Nor should you think "compassionate liberal" when you mention Gov. Christine Gregoire [D-WA]. Nor, for that matter, should you refer to them as compassionate conservatives when you talk about the school lunch programs under the tutorship of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [R-CA] or Gov. Charlie Crist [R-FL]. I don't think any chief executive of any State can be thought of as being a compassionate anything except a donkey or elephant's rear end when they allow school officials under their control to single out, and drag from the hot meal lunch line, elementary students whose parents had not paid the required 50¢ for the day's hot lunch, or who were delinquent with the required monthly fee to participate in the hot lunch program—particularly when half or more of the children in that line receive their lunch free.

Faced with a mounting unpaid lunch tab in a period of extreme economic slowdown the Albuquerque, New Mexico Public School System initiated an austerity program that school officials call the "cheese sandwich policy." Regardless what politically-correct things the school board says to justify what they are doing, the "cheese sandwich policy" is designed to shame parents who were not part of the hot meal program when the school year began, into "paying up" while making the school system appear to be concerned about the psychological and physiological well-being of the students in their care.

Poor but proud parents in working homes with modest incomes who probably would have qualified for the free lunch program for their children when they enrolled them last fall, chose to pay for their hot lunches instead. Why? Particularly when that 50¢ per day per lunch was probably more than many of them could really afford. The answer? Because they did not want their children to be "branded" as "poor kids" whose hot lunches had to be provided by the taxpayers.

Under the austerity program initiated by Mary Swift, Director of Albuquerque's Food and Nutrition Services that oversees the city's Public School lunch program, those children—whose parents may have, since last September, lost their jobs and fallen on hard times and no longer have the 50¢ per meal per child per day—found themselves looked upon by their peers as the offspring of deadbeat who won't spend four bits to feed their kids. When these children were pulled from the meal line they were ushered to a "special table" reserved for all of the deadbeat kids and given what Swift called a "courtesy meal" consisting of a cheese sandwich and milk. Swift noted that some school districts simply refuse to serve those who had not paid. The Albuquerque school system, she noted, "...has historically gone above and beyond as far as treating children with dignity and respect, and trying to do what's best for the child. I think this is just another example."

The children who were singled out by the cheese sandwich policy disagree. Seven year old, second-grader Danessa Vigil said because of the experience, she can no longer eat cheese. "Every time I eat it it makes me feel like I want to throw up." When the incident first happened to the the 7-year old and her 6-year old sister Mya Williams, the girls where so ashamed they did not want to return to their school. In the minds of these two children, they were not treated with dignity and respect. They were made to feel inferior before their peers. That's not right.

Their mother, 27-year old single mom Darlene Vigil said there are days when she simply doesn't have the one dollar needed to buy lunch for her daughters. "Some parents don't even have a dollar sometimes," she said. "If they do, its for something else—like milk at home. There are some families that just don't have it, and that's the reason they're not paying."

Here's the long and short of it. We can give GM and Chrysler auto executives, who fly into Washington in their private Lear jets, hats in hand like they don't have a dollar for lunch, $20 billion dollars so they can upgrade manufacturing plants in Europe and South America. We can bail out AIG three times to the tune of $40 billion but we can't add needy children to the free hot lunch program in Florida, California and Washington State. And, we can give the nation's wealthiest banks which acted irresponsibly in the management of depositor funds $700 billion dollars, yet we don't have a problem justifying our penalizing the children of parents who simply don't have the extra 50¢ per child per lunch by making them feel even more poor, and more different than their classmates.

There's something very seriously wrong with the politicians who have been elected as the temporary custodians of our cities, counties, States and nation that they think that working class breadwinners who, many times, doesn't have the price of a hot lunch, are asked—no...told—that they are going to bail out the wealthiest people in the world whose greed in trying to create a global economy at the expense of those working class Americans backfired on them, and their greed is now creating a slow-motion domino affect that will ultimately collapse the financial markets around the world.

Anyone's who read www.jonchristianryter.com for any length of times knows I am opposed to welfare for anyone who is mentally and physically equipped to work. The Constitution does not guarantee economic equality. You don't owe me a living, nor do I owe you one. And, Lord knows none of us owe the rich anything but our disdain when they beg Congress for corporate welfare—and even more disdain for the politicians that give it them as a quid pro quo for the corporate fat cats financing their political campaigns.

That aside, all of us collectively have an obligation to care for those who are unable to care for themselves whether due to age or infirmity. We have an obligation to the aged and, most of all, we have an obligation to the children in our community care. If their parents are poor, or are simply deadbeats who won't work, it's not their fault. We can't single them out from their peers because of their economic circumstance, nor can we treat them differently because of it and embarrass them to the point where it impacts their psyche.

And, more than anything else, in the United States of America, we have a moral obligation make sure our children who may not have had breakfast, have a hot lunch to get them through the day. Sadly, in too many cases, children go to bed hungry in this nation. We need to make sure that since there is a taxpayer-funded hot meal program in the schools throughout this country, that no child is denied the meal that may, in some cases, be the last meal they eat before they go to bed that night. Well, once again, for whatever it's worth, you have my two cents on this matter.

 

Just Say No
Copyright 2009 Jon Christian Ryter.
All rights reserved
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