No Lunch Money=Neglectful Parents? School Lunch Money a Test?

Quote: Louisiana, a new statute that took effect last week now requires schools to provide a lunch or snack to children whose parents fall three days behind in lunch payments, and further requires school officials to notify the state's Department of Family and Children Services that parents are in arrears for lunch money.

The premise? Parents who habitually don't pay for their children's school lunches are potentially neglectful in other ways. They may be alcoholics or drug addicts. They may be abusing their children at home. You never know.

Falling at least three days behind in lunch payments is just the excuse the state needs to investigate...'s not about the money. It's about getting into people's homes and evaluating their parenting skills, and then imposing government control on parents and their children...

Reporting parents to the government for possibly neglecting their children is a serious and extreme step, and not one that ought to be triggered by delinquent lunch money.

Because the next step will be to open those brown paper sacks some of us are sending from home to decide, based on what's in them, who else ought to get a call from the government.

What do you think- is this statute the first step on a slippery slope? Are there better solutions than this?

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Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Better solutions? Yeah:
1. Get schools out of the lunch business
2. Get gov. out of the school business
3. Stop pushing down the threshold and consequences of personal responsibility

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

rogercarlson's picture

First, I don't think the parents should be reported, because I do think it is a sipplery slope. Also, I don't know what the laws are in that state, but in Illinois if parents are under a certain income, they kids qualify for free or reduced lunches. So I would think alot of the "at risk" kids can already get lunch without lunch money.

I am not sure I agree though about getting the schools completely out of the lunch business. I have two kids in public school and two in a Christian school that gets some state money to help with lunches. I live in a pretty low-income area. There are some kids who don't get much food beyond the lunch programs. And there are many households that depend on that as part of their food budget. The alternatives to the schools not being in the lunch business don't seem very logistically reasonable (outside venders, all kids bringing their lunch). A couple of years ago, we had a family of kids at our kids club. One of the kids was being really nasty. He saw crackers and just didnt stop looking. My wife asked him if he was hungery. He told my wife he hadnt eaten and wasnt sure if he would when he got home. We fed him because, there was no way he would have been able to listen to the Gospel. In many of your areas, those things may not happen. But they do here. So I am not sure what the school is suppossed to do. I don't think getting the state involved is the answer, though.

Jim, in many cases, its not a matter of the kid forgetting the lunch mom packed for them; its a matter of their was nothing or very little to pack.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Jim's picture

rogercarlson wrote:
Jim, in many cases, its not a matter of the kid forgetting the lunch mom packed for them; its a matter of their was nothing or very little to pack.


I answered too quickly (not speaking of typing fast but of putting keyboard in motion before the mind fully processed!) My response was insensitive.

There are people that need government assistance. At one time we qualified for free lunches for the children and it was helpful !

Susan R's picture


I think there are other ways to have handled this without immediately going to this extreme. Many schools have a system where the parent sets up an auto-debit that puts funds into a lunch money account, or lunches can be charged to a credit card (the author of the article mentions this as well).

But investigating a family for neglect or abuse because they haven't provided lunch money three days in a row? Kids and parents not only forget about lunch money, but sometimes it is stolen, or the child spends it on something else. Once CPS opens a file on a family, it can be very difficult to get that case closed, and it will always be a smear that could cast undue suspicion on that family in the future.

BTW- this statute applies to families who don't qualify for gov't assistance. And I agree with Jim- if we are talking about kids who are not in the 'at risk' category, what's the big deal about missing a meal or two, or three? Now, if teachers, who are mandatory reporters, see other indications of neglect and abuse, and the parent is also notorious for forgetting the child's lunch or lunch money, then you have a reasonable suspicion that something's not right and that's enough grounds to open a file. But not just 3 days of forgetting lunch money.

I wonder if there is more to this than the reports I've seen so far. Because it doesn't make sense not to just set up a more efficient payment system. Of course, that's assuming a gov't run program can make sense. Maybe that's my problem right there. Wink

ChristyM's picture

My initial thought is, without being there, the Louisiana child protective agencies must have a lot of time and plenty of workers on their hands. It seems that here child abuse/neglect need to be very clear cut and obvious before we get ANY action. Or, as has been suggested, there is more to the story/statute than is being reported.

Please don't assume people who can't/won't provide lunch for their children are only lazy. Further, even if they are, can we punish the children for the action or inaction of parents? We have used free and reduced price lunches when we qualified. No, I would not have let my child go hungry but it did help us out when we needed it. Then, when with God's provision our financial situation had improved, I signed up for an account with automatic email reminders to load more money into the lunch account. Again, not everybody reads the notices brought home from school to be aware of that service. I have known teachers who loan students lunch money, which of course is not a sustainable practice. Try getting a second grader to remember to tell mom that the teacher needs her $2.50 repaid.