Quality school lunches are extremely important for the health and functioning of our youngest family members. What would you think if your child’s school sent home a note that said they would be allowed to buy ice cream on Fridays only if he buys a school lunch?
Thankfully this situation has been resolved, but some parents were upset when their children brought home a note from their Richmond, Missouri, elementary school. The note stated that kids who participated in the school lunch program — both those who buy school lunches, as well as those who qualify for free or reduced-price meals — would be able to buy ice cream once a week for $1. Kids who brought lunches from home would not be able to participate.
Wait. What? The school meal provider, Opaa!, will allow your child to buy ice cream if they already purchase school food. The school district claims that Opaa! sent out the letters without district approval, and now all children will be able to purchase ice cream on Fridays. Regardless, the idea was unfair and screwed up to begin with.
The motivation behind the initiative was, according to Opaa!, to boost participation and to “help” the school district (in other words, money). The problem is, not everyone wants (or is able) to eat school lunches. Some kids are on special diets, like my daughter, who has celiac disease. Other kids have food allergies. And others prefer to bring familiar or favorite foods from home — foods their parents might feel are better nutrition-wise.
The bottom line is that the school’s meal provider thought excluding children who do not eat school lunches was the right thing to do. The sad thing is, I’ve seen comments from parents who say that kids should learn from an early age that life isn’t fair. The issue I have with that is, in a public school, children should have the same opportunity for benefits that the other children have, especially if that opportunity is compounded by a medical issue.
Fortunately the Richmond R-XVI School District has fixed the issue, and ice cream will be available for any child to purchase, regardless of their school lunch habits. But this still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I understand that schools rely on many different factors to raise funds, but this reminds me of my own child’s school, which rewards kids for never missing a day of school throughout the month. It’s unfair to put the burden of attendance and school lunch purchases on a child who might not be able to control whether or not he’s allowed to participate.