Melissa Mellor

Whole Child in The News: Is a Healthy Lunch a Right or a Privilege?

The recession has forced many schools and districts to make tough decisions about where to cut spending and how to use their resources efficiently and effectively. Unfortunately, a couple of districts may have made money-saving decisions that will negatively impact not only students' health, but also their feelings of safety and support and their ability to stay engaged and challenged.

USA Today reports that some districts, including those serving Albuquerque, N.Mex.; Chula Vista, Calif.; Hillsborough County, Fla.; and Lynwood, Wash., are withholding hot meals from kids whose parents aren't paying the lunch tab and giving them cold cheese sandwiches instead.

It's common sense that hungry kids face greater obstacles in achieving at high levels. And the shame that kids may feel when they're pulled from the lunch line to receive an alternative meal isn't going to help them stay focused and confident in the classroom.

Schools and districts might not be able to solve this problem (and other problems related to the declining economy) on their own. In Albuquerque, unpaid lunch charges were on pace to reach $300,000 by the end of the year, which is almost six times more than its unpaid lunch charges in 2006. That's $300,000 the district can't afford to lose. Here at the WC Blog, we believe districts facing this issue can partner with their local communities to make sure every kid—not just those from families who can afford it—receives a nutritious, well-balanced meal.

There's got to be a better way. How can these schools partner with their communities to ensure that a healthy lunch is not a privilege but the right of each child?

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