Letter to the editor: Every child deserves a hot school lunch


Dear Editor:

I went to a school board meeting last night. The hot topic?


Many schools carry “lunch room debt” throughout the year, and how this debt has or hasn’t been dealt with has been the subject of a great deal of press across the country.

Last spring, our school board decided to opt out of a practice that had taken hold during some of the worst days of the 2008-and-later economic downturn. I hope someday, “Shame Lunches,” AKA, “Courtesy Lunches,” will one day be a distant memory. Originally conceived with probably the best of intentions, these brown bag lunches were handed out to students whose parents held a negative balance on their lunch accounts.

Somewhat meager, yet nutritionally sound, courtesy lunches unfortunately were easily recognizable to all students, and therefore carried a stigma with them that many students chose not to endure. Rather than face the shame that partaking in such a lunch might incur, they would choose instead to go hungry.

Let’s talk about this. Current brain research is quite clear on one issue: human brains need nutrition to function properly. If brains don’t get good food, they don’t work well. Specifically, if our children are at school hungry, they are not learning at an optimum level.

So paying for an education for children, and then posing barriers to their intake of fuel, is a lot like spending all your money on a nice car, but not bothering to buy gas. Except, of course, that we are talking here about our very precious children.

In plain terms: paying for teacher salaries, school buildings, supplies, administrative costs, is not money well spent if the children we are spending it on can’t learn because they are hungry.

So I couldn’t be happier that our school board decided last spring to discontinue one barrier: The Shame Lunch. Instead, each child will be given a lunch equal to each other child’s lunch, regardless of the lunch debt they carry.

This is only right. Yes, brains need fuel to function, but brains also need a sense of safety to function, and feeling shamed is counterproductive to this important sense of security.

One problem. The lunch debt still exists. Last year the school district collected about $6,000 in public donations (from local businesses and individuals) to pay off $4,000 in debt. So it is likely that we will need to replenish that donation account before the year is over.

Personally, I don’t believe the school district should have to ask for public donations for this, since food for children who can’t afford it should be, “the cost of doing business.”

However, this is where we are. These are our children. They are our future and will someday be our physicians, lawyers, mechanics, politicians, clergy, and teachers. And they shouldn’t go hungry.

Can you help out? Here’s a link to help you donate.


If you can manage it, I thank you for contributing to this fund so our kids are fed. Oh and. Feeding kids: it’s just plain the right thing to do!

Thank you,
Cathy Baylor

8 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Every child deserves a hot school lunch”

  1. Wow. Thank you for this letter, Cathy.
    I didn’t realize the shame situation. Glad it has been cancelled. I wholeheartedly agree that every child needs to eat – to function and learn.
    Sad that it has come to this in our schools. I will make a contribution directly to my elem school as a general donation to cover a bit of our families’ needs.


  2. Maybe Teresa can set up an ad so that the donation link stays visible longer. No little kid ( or big kid) should ever be shamed about their school lunch payment or go hungry. That shame is something those kids will never forget. I certainly never have. Thanks for the article and the link. Let’s make sure those kids get a lunch and encourage the school district to think of a way to make school lunches available to every school kid always.


  3. The link goes through Facebook, then to Edmonds schools and isn’t clear at all. Maybe someone from the school district can fix that.


      1. Thanks for the updated link, Cathy, and thanks for the suggestion, Diane. We will figure out a way to make this more visible to folks.


  4. Another suggestion would be to reach out to churches near each school. My church in Lynnwood, has a special partnership with a neighborhood school, where once a month, the congregation brings in bags of groceries for the families of that school. Most churches are eager to help their neighbors in need. This is especially helpful for the families that depend on free or reduced lunches as a main source of food for their children.


    1. Maret, amazing idea. I grew up poor in rural Maine. I remember my grade school had reduced (50%) price lunches and I received them as a kid. I was young, but from what I remember, I wasn’t oblivious to the stigma of those lists which determined who got special treatment. In poor families money is like triage. My mom and dad absolutely ensured the kids had everything they needed. Almost every poor family in America can afford the basics (we’re a 1st world country). In my poor family, subsidized lunches weren’t considered as one less thing we worried about, as much as one more luxury we could afford. For example, both my parents smoked cigarettes and the more that lunch was subsidized, the more cigarettes could be bought. The irony is that subsidy like these causes parents to give less primary focus on their child. Not only does the school keep the child most of the day, but now the school is feeding them too. Schools are also proactively taking over teaching morality and ethics. Who’s the parent? Churches and charities are the way kids who need help should be getting help as these institutions are, not only able to scrutinize who needs the charity so that it isn’t squandered, but also able to maintain the custodial relationship of a parent and child and the family fabric. Eventually my poor family got involved with a local food cupboard. Not only did my dignity as a child get restored, but it was discovered that our family had surplus and was able to donate food and time to help others. As a boy I worked for a local grange for more than 10 years washing dishes and making mashed potatoes for poor families. Schools should stick to curriculum.


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