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Schools Back to Collecting Lunch Debt

One of the better pandemic programs that the minority party in Congress killed this year was funding for free lunch for all public school students. So our schools are now back to scanning lunch cards, which many families are having a tough time affording:

“We’ve seen a big increase in unpaid (meals),” Rhonda Ramsdell, the president of the School Nutrition Association of South Dakota, said. Ramsdell works in the Meade School District.

As of Sept. 27, the district has more than $3,000 in unpaid meals, Ramsdell said. “Prior to COVID we were running at about $4,500 a year over the course to the end of the school year,” she said.

Ramsdell said she’s heard similar stories from many of the nutrition officials involved in the SNA in the state [Rae Yost, “Unpaid Meal Costs Concern School Officials,” KELO-TV, 2022.09.27].

How much would it cost to put all those meals back on the federal tab, take the bookkeeping off the schools’ shoulders, and keep spaghetti and meatballs in every child’s tummy?

Ramsdell said the federal government through USDA spends about $14 billion a year on the school nutrition program. That’s a lot of money, she said, but for $10 billion more, every student could be fed for free. The most important focus should be lunches, she said [Yost, 2022.09.27].

$10 billion a year—that’s the cost of 14 new B-21 bombers, which our Republican Congress critters have been more than happy to invest in. But they can’t find the courage or capital to invest in children’s health and learning.


  1. grudznick 2022-09-28

    No such thing as a free lunch.

  2. sx123 2022-09-28

    Yes, we spend an insane amount on weapons and ship them all over the world, and we have school lunch problems here.

    I hope kids aren’t getting turned away, hungry, and embarrassed at lunch if they don’t have money in the account.

  3. All Mammal 2022-09-28

    School, prisons, and barracks should garden. So much learning, work, love, experimentation and nutrition going to waste. And money. There- Mr. G. A solution so those buggers don’t get a crumb without paying by the sweat from their brow.

  4. Donald Pay 2022-09-28

    As a Daddy I thought it was my responsibility to feed my daughter. We could have qualified for food stamps for a couple lean years, but I refused to apply for or take any sort of welfare, I just cut expenses, sometimes skipping my student loan repayments to make ends meet. I didn’t fix my car, stopped going to the dentist or doctor, and cut any completely unnecessary expense. I was late on a lot of payments, but we made it through that tough period. After I started bagging a lunch for my daughter, the school lunch lady asked me if I wanted to apply for free lunch. I told her no. I was too ashamed. I looked at the application and information she gave me and I found I qualified for free lunch, but there was a category called “reduced lunch,” a discounted lunch at a reduced price. I thought that meant that my daughter would get just the basics for lunch, maybe not the chips or dessert, so I applied for that. It turned out she got the whole lunch with chips but at a subsidized price. It was extremely shameful for me at the time, and still is, but I decided to stay with the “reduced lunch.”

    I talked to a number of parents who had their children on the free or reduced lunch program. Nearly everyone of them felt the same shame as I did. In public schools there are a lot of poor kids. Nearly half of school kids use this program to eat lunch at school. That’s a lot of parents who feel shame. I always made sure I was up to date with the school lunch lady, so that my kid wouldn’t be outed for having a Daddy who couldn’t feed her. I didn’t want her to feel the same shame as I did.

  5. O 2022-09-28

    grudznick, as I get older, it seems like I only hear that from people who think they are the ones paying for it say that anymore. It also seems like the ones saying it also have their Sunday breakfast gravy and taters paid for by someone else.

  6. cibvet 2022-09-28

    O is correct. The 40 plus crowd seem to think they pay for everything and USE nothing the taxpayer dollars are spent on.All they see is that someone else might be getting more than them. America is a sick society with only professed Christians.

  7. Richard Schriever 2022-09-28

    grudz – all Federal $$ is fungible. Do those weapons expenditures “ensure the freedom” of kids to eat lunch? If one believes the rah rah rhetoric in support of militarism – they do.

  8. bearcreekbat 2022-09-28

    Donald’s comment identifies an unfortunate, unrealistic and potentially self destructive attitude shared by too many people:

    In this work-focused culture, too often being poor is viewed as a moral failing, rather than just an unfortunate situation.

    Too often, it’s assumed that if the poor individual just worked harder or tried more, or wasn’t so lazy, then they wouldn’t be poor any longer.

    Poverty isn’t actually a moral failing. It’s something that happens to people due to any variety of challenges in life, and is unavoidable when there are so many jobs that don’t pay a living wage.

    In my view there is nothing to be ashamed about in accessing systems designed to assist people when qualified for benefits from these systems. Rather, it makes more sense to be ashamed if one finds themselves shaming others for simply taking care of their families by using resources designed for precisely that use. Here is a great story about a woman that overcame that self-destructive attitude:

    I grew up believing welfare was bad.

    Blame it on the Republican family I was raised in. They believe that people go on welfare because they’re lazy. I marinated in my parents’ belief system for half my life; it couldn’t help but rub off on me.

    Even if I didn’t abide by their ideas intellectually, I absorbed them. My formative years took place during the Reagan era.

    Regan loved to talk about “welfare queens” defrauding the system. These women — typically Black — lurked in the projects, greedily gobbling up government aid to fund their lavish lifestyles.

    No bother that the woman the moniker was based on, Linda Taylor, was a skilled scam artist. . .

    . . .

    The real shame is not the people who desperately need aid at this moment but that the most affluent and powerful in this country have enabled a situation where the health of businesses is favored over the health of families.

    Reading about thousands of cars lined up outside food banks or that two in five households with children under twelve are currently food insecure — I’m horrified.

    This, in the richest country in the world…

    It’s been enough to rinse the shame right out of me. I’m sick of the belief that people who need help have simply brought their hard times upon themselves.

    I’ve made the conscious decision to disabuse myself of the shame I used to feel.

    I refuse to feel guilty about being on welfare — especially not as a single mother caring for two children completely on my own.

    Now when I wait in line to purchase my food with my benefits card, I hold my head high. I no longer try to hide how I’m paying, pretending I’m using a debit card when I have an EBT card in my hand.

    Welfare has helped me when I needed it most. There’s nothing wrong with receiving government aid — especially not now.

    No one should feel ashamed about being on welfare. At least I’m no longer shaming myself for it. . . .

  9. WillyNilly 2022-09-28

    I haven’t had kids or grandkids in school in a very long time. Just how much does school lunch cost these days? I know that my food costs a lot more now but I have skills to make my grocery dollar go further. I’m sure the schools employ similar techniques. So what are we talking about per kid in SD?

  10. P. Aitch 2022-09-28

    I grew up thinking welfare was good. It’s the European way, pilgrims. The guilt put upon among SD residents is deplorable. Analyze why you feel superior with the time you spend trying to keep others from having something. Your emotion is greed and making others feel guilty is false witness. I think welfare is good because the group can well afford to raise the water level, so all our boats float easily. Every one of us does something to support the group. It’s just food for God’s sake. Who are you to deny someone else what you can help provide? Arrogant bastards.

  11. P. Aitch 2022-09-28

    And … let me answer the usual suspects who post on here that welfare and its recipients are sickening to them, before they spout their vile venom.
    It’s the states with the majority of people who think like me; that welfare is good and proper, where the voters reach into their paychecks every month to send money to states like SD so Republican states like SD can pay their bills without doing the good and proper thing and raising taxes to pay their own way.

  12. Donald Pay 2022-09-28

    I think it is good to be self-reliant, but humans develop society and culture in order to have security. Food security is one of the basic things humans need, and one of the first things that human societies strive to accomplish. It might be hunting and gathering in groups and sharing food among the group, or church potlucks, or food stamps or school lunches. It’s all food security. I wanted to feed my child and I didn’t want to have anyone’s help, and, really, except for the reduced price school lunch, I did. But I think the shame was a motivator for me never to get into that position again. It’s one of the factors that motivated me to leave South Dakota, where I could be paid a decent wage for my work.

    You know, there used to be these potato and cheese give aways at the Central States Fairgrounds in Rapid City. You would see all these cars lined up. Many of the people weren’t needy, but they would be there chucking free food into their expensive SUVs. As poor as I was, I never went. I always figured there was someone poorer than me who could benefit.

  13. P. Aitch 2022-09-28

    Are you bragging or complaining, Mr. Pay?

  14. Arlo Blundt 2022-09-28

    I had the same experience as Donald for a couple years. My two kids were troopers, think of it now as an adventure. Until you have a separate line item in your household budget for school lunch and kid’s shoes, it is hard to imagine the stress of being poor.

  15. P. Aitch 2022-09-28

    Why is being poor stressful? The comments from BCB address that very well. Being poor is simply being poor. It’s imagining what others in SD are saying about you behind your back that’s stressful. Learning not to care about them or being raised not to care about what others think of you because they rarely do stops stress before it’s ugly head can influence your self-esteem. i.e. 95% of people’s thoughts are about themselves. There’s no reason to imagine they’re thinking about you, anyway. .

  16. bearcreekbat 2022-09-28

    The idea that “I always figured there was someone poorer than me who could benefit” plays into the zero sum propaganda designed to cause too many voters to think they are victims if they are told someone else gets something that they don’t. In reality it is not a zero sum game in the US. There are more than enough resources to assure that everyone in the US (as well as the world) can eat without depriving anyone else of food:

    . . . global food production is incredibly efficient. The world’s farmers produce enough food to feed 1.5x the global population. That’s enough to feed 10 billion (we are at 7.6 billion currently).

    And according to ShareAmerica, American farmers actually export a substantial amount of food grown in the US to other countries:

    American farmers are selling more of their high-quality products to the rest of the world than ever before in the history of U.S. agriculture. . . .

    The United States, the world’s top food exporter, shipped over $139.5 billion in agricultural products abroad in 2018, a $1.5 billion increase over 2017.

  17. P. Aitch 2022-09-28

    “… too many voters think they are victims if they are told someone else gets something that they don’t.’ is the mindset that causes a third of American voters to choose Trump.

  18. All Mammal 2022-09-28

    I can’t understand why anyone would want to have more than others anyways. Why live in a big house on the hill when your community is poor and stupid and ugly? That would make me feel horrible. I want to see my community lookin good. That makes me feel good.

    Its like going to the bar loaded with cash with all your broke friends. I would just give them all their own cash before going inside so they can walk up to the bar themselves and not have to follow me around waiting for me to acknowledge they need a drink and humiliate them…. some people love to tsk tsk tsk others. They love being needed and watching peoples’ pride diminished by having to ask and be judged. It is control and is sick.

    If I see someone clearly hungry, I might slip a sandwich to them nonchalantly. I might drop groceries off so our coworkers don’t all know our friend is struggling to feed themselves and their kids if I know they try to hide their struggle. I have been there. It is a demeaning feeling to be an able-bodied adult with hands and feet that work and yet find yourself walking to your sister’s to ask to clean her fridge. But it can happen.

    My mom and dad would take me to Sam’s and tell me they will only eat as good as their poorest kid and can only be as happy as their saddest kid. My brothers and sisters aren’t shy about blaming whoever sucks at life the most and is responsible for making our Doti sad.

    Never been on welfare, but if I had my own punkin heads or didn’t have family to feed me, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for help when cupboards are empty. I am glad to pay taxes for smart, healthy kids and paid teachers and not have blight everywhere. That is the point of taxes in my view. Not to pay for trips to Maryland dinners and Custer weddings.

  19. Donald Pay 2022-09-28

    Am I bragging or complaining? Neither. I was raised to be self-reliant. It’s my value in life, I guess, but I realize that human cultures are meant to be supportive, so that when anyone needs help, they get it. That’s why I don’t understand the Grudz brand of snottiness toward people in need. In many of my jobs, I was a caretaker, helping others. At times, we all need someone’s help, but, yeah, I feel there is always someone who could use the help more than I do. I don’t think it’s a zero-sum situation. Love is ever-expanding.

  20. Ben Cerwinske 2022-09-28

    The stress of being poor isn’t completely about what other people think. It’s about constantly having to think hard about what you’re spending and still not being able to save enough for even a “rainy day”.

  21. Arlo Blundt 2022-09-28

    Oddly enough I never really thought about what other people thought. I moved to a small town to cut housing expenses and everyone was about in the same boat, or worse, than we were. Poverty is relative I guess.

  22. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-09-28

    bearcreekbat and P. Aitch: I am eligible for and fortunate enough to receive an annual Low Income Energy Assistance Program grant and Senior Commodities through a combination of South Dakota and federal programs and saintly volunteers. My 2021 AGI was thousands of dollars below the poverty guidelines for this state.

    I cut up hundreds of free wooden pallets every year so I may heat my house and water and cook my food on my woodstove; I make sure the disabled veteran that lives in another house on my property can afford the $300+ to heat his house electrically in the winter.

    The one thing I won’t do? I shall never, EVER, let my neighbors know I receive these two benefits. They’d probably torch my house because, well, THEY don’t get free food and energy assistance. And I have Biden/Harris bumperstickers.

  23. M 2022-09-28

    Several areas of our state are food deserts and parents are stuck buying theirs at Family Dollar and Dollar General. Often the only nutritional meal their children get is at school. Many rural towns are high poverty areas so the whole school is then reduced and free lunch. In fact, everything is based on income as to what charges are incurred. I think ERERY child deserves FREE if you want them at school every day with a tummy full of brain food.

    Are we really the richest country in the world? And if children are sacred and our future, why don’t we invest in them more? Squabbling over free lunch for all is so petty and pitiful.

  24. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-09-28

    M: Once the child has left the womb, Reptilian mysogynists don’t give two hoots in H*ck about their welfare.

  25. e platypus onion 2023-10-13

    Wouldn’t surprise if Noem and other disgusting fauxknee kristians refuse any funds made available.

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