This West Virginia Lawmaker Thinks Children Should Have to Work For School Lunches

Remember school lunches? Maybe they weren’t the most appealing, but there was always the option of a well-balanced meal with each component coming from a different segment of the food pyramid. They were always inexpensive; for the kids who needed it, there were reduced-price meals available once their parents filled out the necessary forms. The elementary school lunch room was not only a place for students to eat and talk with friends, but an opportunity for teachers to make sure every student was eating. I almost always brought lunch to school and clearly remember one of the regular substitutes, Mrs. Deer, commenting on how I always had a healthy meal.

Today, I understand the importance of proper nutrition being provided to growing brains and bodies. Congress understands this too, which is why the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 was passed “to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation’s children.”

Unfortunately, not all politicians agree.

West Virginia recently passed the Feed to Achieve Act, which establishes nonprofits to solicit donations in order to provide every student with breakfast and lunch at no cost.

WV lawmaker Ray Canterbury (R-Greenbrier) disagrees with this policy, stating that it teaches students there is an easy way out.

Instead, he feels that students should work for their meals, saying, “I think it would be a good idea if perhaps we had the kids work for their lunches: trash to be taken out, hallways to be swept, lawns to be mowed, make them earn it.”

Canterbury added, “If they miss a lunch or they miss a meal they might not, in that class that afternoon, learn to add, they may not learn to diagram a sentence, but they’ll learn a more important lesson.”

School lunch programs have been in the works since before 1937 when 15 states passed laws authorizing schools to provide students with lunches. Before this time, meals were provided through private institutions that funded their operations through donations.

It wasn’t until 1946, when the 79th Congress recognized a need for consistent lunchtime meals to be provided for students across the U.S., that the National School Lunch Act was approved. Since then, many amendments have been made to the bill, accommodating for school buildings that were constructed before the legislation came to pass and therefore don’t have the capabilities to house kitchens and lunch rooms.

Unfortunately, Canterbury's more recent attitude on school lunches can be seen across the nation, despite evidence which proves that growing bodies and brains need food to function well and continue to develop.

A report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranks West Virginia 47th nationally for education. In a state where 79% of eighth graders are not proficient in math and 73% of fourth graders are not proficient in reading, a balanced lunch that will aid in concentration and stall behavior problems may be the answer to the states sub-par test scores. And in a country where grades and standardized testing determines success as a student moves forward all the way up to college, proper nutrition can only facilitate a positive swing in the education system.

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Gabi Chepurny

I fight stereotypes.

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