It’s a free lunch free-for-all.
A Wisconsin school board is under fire for scrapping a free meal program — suggesting that it could make kids “spoiled.”
The Waukesha School District opted out of a federally funded program that provided free lunch to all kids regardless of income in June, arguing that it could leave families “addicted” to free food, according to the Washington Post.
School board member Karin Rajnicek asserted that universal free meals ran the risk of making families “become spoiled,” according to the Post.
“Oh my goodness. Waukesha, what is wrong with you?” a furious physician posted on Twitter Friday. “Non-hungry children are not “spoiled” or “addicted.”
The city Department of Education provides free meals for all students regardless of financial status.
Darren Clark, who serves as assistant superintendent for business services in Waukesha, said the junked program promoted a “slow addiction.”
The board reverted to a prior arrangement where eligible kids could apply for the National School Lunch Program and receive money for their meals.
But the switch has since sparked a backlash both locally and on social media, with critics arguing that the prior program eased financial burdens imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It comes from just caring about the other members of our community,” Karen Fraley, a mother of two students in the district, told the outlet. “Even if it’s not my kid who needs that food, it’s just a matter of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and understanding that we all need to take care of each other.”
In addition, other critics argued, blanket eligibility removed the stigma for lower-income kids who would sometimes shrink from accepting the meals in school.
Waukesha was the only one of Wisconsin’s 408 districts to opt out of the program.
Joseph Como Jr., president of the school board, said the district wanted to return to pre-pandemic routines.
“As we get back to whatever you want to believe normal means, we have decisions to make,” he said at the June meeting. “I would say this is part of normalization.”
A group of outraged residents have since formed an organization that is pressing the district to reverse its decision, and a meeting has been called for next week on the issue.