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Ghoulish Wisconsin School Board Rejects Free Lunches Over Fears Kids Will Be ‘Spoiled’

Feeding hungry children is not a luxury.
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A Wisconsin school district is making news over its new draconian policy to deprive hungry children of free federally funded lunches. The reason? They don’t want children to become “spoiled” by the food. Because apparently, feeding hungry children is now a luxury item and not an act of basic human decency. The Waukesha School District is the only one in the entire state to reject these lunches, which again, are cost them nothing and are funded by the federal government.

Last year, the district participated in the universal free-lunch program, which is funded by the Department of Agriculture. The program helped families who were struggling during the pandemic, which continues to ravage Republican-led states. Board members voted in June to reject the program, opting instead to return to the National School Lunch Program, which offers free and reduced-price lunches to low-income students. But families must apply to be enrolled in the program.

Joseph Como, president of the school board, said “As we get back to whatever you want to believe normal means, we have decisions to make, … I would say this is part of normalization.” Because nothing says business as usual like hungry children?!?

Como’s absurd statement was supported by his fellow monsters on the school board. Karin Rajnicek, a board member, said the free program made it easy for families to “become spoiled.” Darren Clark, the assistant superintendent for business services, said he feared there would be a “slow addiction” to the service. The district, which is a GOP stronghold, is really leaning into the republican ideology that says “the cruelty is the point.”

Not only is feeding children an undeniable moral good, but it also protects students and administrators from COVID-19 by offering individually packaged meals that are easily transported and eaten outside. It also saves children and parents the stigma and embarrassment of needing low-income food options. In addition, rejecting the program means that schools in the district will lose money, as the federal program reimburses schools at a higher rate than the pre-pandemic program. And more children are getting fed! There is literally no upside to canceling this program.

Sherrie Tussler, executive director of Hunger Task Force, said “When children are in your company and it’s meal time, you feed them, … You don’t sort them. This gives the district the opportunity to not sort children, to feed them all.” Tussler continued, “I would suggest this is either an uninformed or under-informed decision on the part of the school board, … And it should be revisited quickly, because it’s going to result in a loss of substantial revenue for the school system, and that revenue could be used to create additional programming or improve the quality of the food on the plate.”

Debra Wollin, who works on the state Department of Public Instruction’s school nutrition team, emailed the board members to “highly recommended” the district change their stance, considering that the child hunger rate in Waukesha County increased from 9% in 2019 to 13% in 2020. “Many families who would not normally qualify for free or reduced-price meals may still need assistance for financial hardships that they have experienced this past year,” Wollin wrote.

Parents and community members are protesting the school board’s decision. The board has agreed to hold a special session on Monday to reconsider their decision. If you are horrified by this story, then good news! You can reach out to the members of the Waukesha school board HERE to tell them what you think of their decision.

Now that these board members are being shamed on a national level, will it change their minds? It all depends on if any of these monsters are even capable of feeling the emotion.

(via Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, image: Romulus Films)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.