Last week, I wrote about Rep. Jack Kingston who shocked me and most Americans (the ones who aren’t dead on the inside) by his suggestion that children taking part in the national free lunch program should clean the floors of their cafeterias. Some of the responses to the post have been incredible as well as eye opening, and I’m including excerpts below. Thank you to all of you — there were more than 4,000 of you — who shared the Huffington Post article. And to those of you who wrote in, I’m grateful.
“I grew up with a mom that was so poor when she was little, she brought a lunch bag to school filled with rocks to make the other kids think she had something to eat. Her diet was so awful, she had scabies and rickets on a regular basis and most of her teeth rotted out. She was one of those ‘self-made’ Americans that men and women like Jack seem to think are so valuable to this country. Growing up in poverty scarred her permanently; the shame she felt, the fear of not having enough are so hard-wired, she still goes into grocery stores and says ‘I can’t believe I get to buy anything in here.’ She’s still that little kid. It wasn’t the poverty that broke her, it was the shame of it. The fear it instilled, the complete lack of safety net…” —Blogger Kickball Revolution
“Let me tell you, as a kid who spent several of my formative years eating bologna sandwiches on white bread with government-subsidized blocks of cheese, who used that free lunch program, that I had absolutely no misconceptions about there being no such thing as a free lunch. When my teacher mother was laid off because she had the audacity to get pregnant again, I watched her leave the house, hugely pregnant, as soon as my dad got home from his low-wage job to go work second shift at the Swiss Colony so they could make the house payment, so they could keep the heat on, so the electricity wouldn’t get cut off. She never once complained about lost time with her kids because she was doing what had to be done. Nobody wants a handout, Mr. Kingston. But you try making rent on three different minimum-wage jobs. You’ll barely make it, much less get food on the table, much less ever see your kids in any capacity that enables you to see them thrive and succeed the way you desperately want them to, because all you ever wanted was a better life for them. You try to learn when you are hungry, sir. To focus on anything, much less what’s going on in a classroom.” —Blogger Break the City Sky
“I benefited from reduced lunch programs as a young child and still experienced the shame of living with a single (young) parent struggling to support her kids as an exotic dancer as well as manage her mental health issues and drug addictions. In addition to feeling constantly judged by my peers’ parents, being bullied by the kids around me, feeling afraid at night when I was home alone or in the care of an unknown or unsafe guardian, paying my part of my lunch bill with damp sparkling dollar bills, and worrying that CPS was going to swoop in any day and break up my family, sweeping the cafeteria floor for loose change to pay for some lukewarm green beans or congealed fruit mold would have DEFINITELY taught me an important lesson about making better life choices. Because living in poverty isn’t terrifying and dehumanizing enough OBVIOUSLY so kids need to be further ostracized and embarrassed…” -Blogger Mamamusement