In the words of Orson Wells ‘Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch.’ School lunches could make citizens out of all of us.
Nearly every OECD country provides either free or subsidised school lunches. Only New Zealand, Canada and a few others continue the tyranny of the packed lunch and the soggy sandwich.
That’s because we’re not a child-centered culture.
In countries like Britain, France, Finland, Japan and Sweden, where most kids get school lunches, no one talks about the parents. They talk about the kids. This week, all we’ve talked about is the drop kick parents who don't feed their kids breakfast.
The opposite is true in other countries where lunch is served at school. No one questions that the state has a role to play. It’s not an extension of welfare. While you’re in school in France or even the USA, you belong to society. It will make sure you get one hot meal a day because that’s an investment in the future. Hungry kids don’t concentrate, don’t learn as well, and are more likely to fail.
In France, schools are there to mould French citizens.
When my kids started primary school in France, I once had a note sent home to remind my ‘Kiwi’ son not to eat the bread and cheese before his main meal. ‘That is not how we do it in France. Bread and cheese is eaten after the main course’ My kids were children of the state of France, didn’t matter what I did at home and what I spent my money on. Parents weren’t important.
That’s the problem with National’s breakfast in schools scheme here. Breakfast is the parents responsibility. Much easier to sell the state’s intervention at lunchtime, when kids are legally obliged to be on school premises, learning and preparing for a brighter better future where we all benefit.
I grew up in England, and every day Mrs Collett the dinner lady in her white overall and cap, would read us the menu; ‘Today its mince, carrots and mashed potatoes, with spotted dick and custard for pudding.’ We may have groaned, but I had better lunches than my kids who have lived on my pack lunches for years.
The USA has had the federal National School Lunch Program (NSLP) since 1946 when President Harry Truman signed it into law. It supplies five billion low cost or free lunches every year to kids who qualify, and cheap lunches to every other kid.
If the land of the free can do it, it’s hardly a socialist conspiracy to take over the parenting of your child.
Although a Republican Senator in West Virginia , Ray Canterbury did suggest that if kids are getting meals free, they should earn it.
"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,"
Getting kids to work for food? We outlawed that about 150 years ago.
Feeding the kids lunch would help us create a generation of well-fed and valued citizens.