Valdosta Daily Times

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What We Think

February 5, 2014

Americans withholding food

VALDOSTA — Americans give freely to charities, perform more community service voluntarily than the citizens of any other country, and are the first to send aid to other areas in times of crisis. So why is it that this genial and kind nation has such an issue thinking that someone might get something for free?

Last week, in case you missed it, an elementary school in Salt Lake City, Utah literally, and I do mean literally, snatched lunch plates away from 40 children and threw the food away. They apparently would rather waste it and throw it in the trash than to allow children to eat it. The school’s excuse? The children had an unpaid balance in their account and were therefore not entitled to eat.

Entitlement. What a frightening word, especially when referring to food.

It’s happened to numerous parents in both public systems and private schools as well. Children humiliated when they cannot get lunch due to an unpaid balance. Some schools give them a peanut butter sandwich, while others allow them to have milk but that’s all.

Children are helpless. Elementary school students don’t have check books or debit/ credit cards. They must depend on their parents to take care of paying for their needs. When a parent fails to do so for whatever reason, should the child be punished? Could you look at a hungry 6-year old and grab the food from their mouth? Could you look into the eyes of a young child for whom that may be their only meal of the day and deny it to them?

Americans donate time and money to starving children in other countries, but when it comes to feeding our own, we fall short of ideal. So it’s the parents’ fault. Sure it is. But punishing a child by forcing them to go hungry is simply cruel.

Why is it that tolerance for social problems begins and ends at America’s borders? When will our society begin to take care of its own starving children just as it does for others? When will we stop hurting children in a misguided attempt to punish their parents?

And why would anyone deny a child food for any reason?

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