Wisconsin school ditches free lunch program to avoid 'spoiling' families

Wisconsin school ditches free lunch program to avoid 'spoiling' families

Hundreds of families and educators in Waukesha, Wisconsin are calling on the city's school board to reverse a decision it made earlier this year to opt out of a federal meal program that was introduced at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, offering free food to students regardless of income.

As the Washington Post reported Friday, Waukesha is the only school district in the state to reject funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Seamless Summer Option program, which was praised by economists and beneficiaries alike for destigmatizing the need for public assistance and eliminating red tape.


In previous years the district has participated in the National School Lunch Program, which offers free and reduced-price meals to students depending on their families' income and requires parents or guardians to fill out applications for approval.

During the 2018-2019 school year, 36% of Waukesha's 14,000 students qualified for the program. Students who live below the poverty line in the city are disproportionately Black and Latino.

The school board members' stated reasoning for forgoing the universal program ranged from an alleged concern that students who use the National School Lunch Program in future years wouldn't have their applications filled out if the Seamless Summer Option was offered to everyone this year, to a desire to "get back to whatever you want to believe normal means," to some comments that garnered an outraged response from locals as well as social media users.

School board member Karin Rajnicek said families would "become spoiled" if the universal program continued, while Darren Clark, an assistant superintendent in the district, said an "addiction" to the aid could arise in the community.

"You see, the poor kids may become addicted to food if we feed them," tweeted HuffPost journalist Andy Campbell sarcastically.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party called the board's decision—which was made in June and is being discussed on Monday at a meeting following outcry in the community—"a vile attack on our children," particularly children of color.

"The Waukesha School Board's decision isn't just cruel, it's an attempt to punish children from families with lower incomes who are disproportionately Black and brown," said state treasurer Sarah Godlewski.

Following the board's decision in June, hundreds of parents and teachers in the district connected on social media and began a public pressure campaign, calling on the district to offer meals to all children without requiring proof of income.

"We're determined to make Waukesha as good as it can be, starting with something as easy as feeding kids," Dave Drigenberg, a parent in the district, told the Post on Friday.

#story_page_post_article

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.