All Detroit students will get free meals

All Detroit students will get free breakfast, lunch and snacks as part of a federal pilot program.

“Some students would skip important meals to avoid being identified as low-income,” said DPS Chief Operating Officer Mark Schrupp.

Really? Aren’t low-income students the majority in Detroit’s public schools?

The Free Press photo of a school lunch shows something cheesy (deep-dish pizza?), cherry pie, chocolate milk and lettuce. If the program eliminates meal skipping, it will boost the demand for federal anti-obesity funding.

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  1. Good heavens! Either cherry pie or chocolate milk, but not both! And that’s just one meal–I bet the breakfasts are slathered in syrup.

  2. georgelarson says:

    Maybe they have choocolate frosted sugar bombs for breakfast.

  3. “Charter schools and districts in Michigan can participate if at least 40% of students are eligible for public assistance.”

    Shouldn’t there be a higher standard, say, at least 2/3?

  4. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    There should be no free school lunch. Indeed, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

    If parents aren’t feeding their children, the answer isn’t to further relieve the parents of their responsibilities. The answer is to take away the children and put them with someone who will feed them. There aren’t many justifications for doing that, but failure to provide food is certainly one of them.

    If you can’t get together a meal for your young, you’re a flat-out failure as a higher mammal.

  5. An interesting piece of history for you, Thinly Veiled Anonymity: The National School Lunch Program as we know it was established after WWII because the military found that a large percentage of draftees and recruits were malnourished. So its original purpose was national security — it actually isn’t based on some crybaby bleeding-heart notion that hungry kids should be fed out of sheer goodheartedness.

    There is already an NSLP policy providing for schools to feed all students free — it’s eye-crossingly complex (as is everything about the NSLP, which desperately screams for reform), but essentially it’s workable for a school with 80%-plus free/reduced lunch students.

  6. “…it actually isn’t based on some crybaby bleeding-heart notion that hungry kids should be fed out of sheer goodheartedness.”

    That lunch doesn’t exactly scream “military preparedness.”

  7. …unless the mission we’re training kids for is total war against all-you-can-eat buffets.

  8. “The program (NSLP) was established as a way to prop up food prices by absorbing farm surpluses, while at the same time providing food to school age children.”

    Gee, I wonder which reason cinched the deal?

  9. The most recent Detroit Public Schools lunch menu that’s published online is from March 2011. Most of the options look reasonably healthy, and there aren’t any pies.

    This is likely a stock photo, although my family’s personal experience being in a universal free lunch school has been that what’s actually served at the school isn’t always the same as what’s on the city’s listed menu for that day.

    I am troubled that a lot of parents are left in a position where (for whatever reason) they can’t or don’t want to pay for their children’s lunches. But the free lunch program creates lots of jobs, both within the schools and for the suppliers, and it seems to be run fairly efficiently–no money disappearing down a rabbit-hole or $600 cans of tomatoes as far as I can tell.

  10. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    So its original purpose was national security — it actually isn’t based on some crybaby bleeding-heart notion that hungry kids should be fed out of sheer goodheartedness.

    That’s a nice story, but it’s like saying that Hitler invaded Poland because he wanted to have some good French wine; there’s some technical but-for causation at work, sure. But it’s not “the original purpose” by any stretch of the reasonable imagination.

    “National security” might have made some nice, additional political cover for the passage of the particular 1946 bill, but as the history of the NSLP (start here and keep reading: shows that the overall project has been about feeding the poor little ones since well before the turn of the last century.

  11. Wow, that Detroit menu has an amazing item: “Seasoned Chicken Fajita In Gravy”. Someone is uncertain about the nature of a “fajita,” in more than one way.

  12. I vote for stopping the whole lunch program, as presently constituted. Obesity is a greater problem than malnutrition, using it as a jobs program just drives up taxpayer costs and a lot of the food ends up in the trash.

    f there is really a hunger problem, (which I doubt; more likely kids are buying the junk food they like) let private charity address the need; our local Kids Against Hunger program could be used as a model and the kids could do the prep work themselves. Specific amounts of rice, soy protein, chicken broth powder and dried vegetables are measured into 1-qt ziplock baggies and it’s cooked just like rice. It’s cheap, nutritious (1 serving per day is used in famine relief efforts) and it tastes good (I’ve tasted it). If kids are really hungry, they’ll eat it. They can do all the measuring and weighing (math!) and one adult or teenager could cook the lot.

  13. There’s nothing wrong with that lunch since the students are given time to run around in recess. Oh, or, well, they’ll have to exercise in phys ed. Worst case scenario, they’ll be able to play with the other neighborhood kids… aw heck, forget I said anything.

  14. TVA, there have indeed been many bleeding-heart, crybaby, do-gooder programs feeding hungry children at school for decades. The NSLP in its present form got the big boost after WWII for that reason, however,

  15. I have mixed feelings about the school lunch program.

    On the one hand, as a taxpayer it infuriates me when so many low-income folks will have plenty of money for cable/satellite, fancy cell phones and other electronics, cigarettes, alcohol, etc. but then claim they’re “too broke” to provide basic necessities for their kids. My DH saw this all the time when he was an Army officer and had to do financial counseling of his soldiers.

    On the other hand, I don’t want to be hard-hearted and punish the kids for their parents’ messed-up financial priorities. If schools stop providing free lunch to low-income kids, it’s not like most deadbeat parents are going to suddenly decide to quit being so selfish & start doing the right thing. No, the poor kids would just go hungry 🙁

  16. I strongly doubt that a patchwork quilt of private charities would be able to provide 31 million at-risk kids, spread out over 3.9 million square miles, with a mostly healthy breakfast and lunch at a net cost of $2 per child per day.

    I am sure you are absolutely correct that middle- and high-school kids are eschewing the free lunch for junk food. And quite clearly a lot of the food is wasted, although it is a tiny patch on the amount of food our country wastes overall. But I can assure you that the meals are eaten by elementary school kids, and that for quite a lot of those kids, the breakfast and lunch are the healthiest meals and/or the only meals they’ll eat on any given day.

    I suppose giving poor children something a little better and more varied than famine-relief subsistence calories out of a plastic bag (which wouldn’t cost much less than $2/day anyway) is just one of those irritating costs of doing business when you’re in the richest and most stable country in the world.

  17. “And quite clearly a lot of the food is wasted, although it is a tiny patch on the amount of food our country wastes overall.”

    We’d be better off wasting more, frankly.

    • I get what you’re saying, but it’s more complicated than that — the majority of what’s wasted is fresh produce, grains, and dairy. It’s the processed crap (which completely screws up ones sense of satiety) and lack of physical activity that’s creating the obesity epidemic.

  18. How about having kids make salads (from precut stuff) once a week and sandwiches once a week, too? It’s more time-consuming, but it’s good motor practice for the little kids and might lead to better food choices. Feeding everybody the same thing all the time just leads to lowest common denominator crud like in the photo, whereas some kids really do like sunflower seeds or kidney beans or garbanzo beans or boiled eggs or craisins or shredded cheese or baby spinach. They just don’t all like all that stuff, but any given kid will like at least two, given half a chance. The nutritional value would be higher on the salad and sandwich days while the caloric count would be down.

  19. My kids’ ES tried a salad bar and it lasted less than a semester because kids wouldn’t eat it. Perhaps by MS, some girls would, but I’m guessing that’s more likely to be in affluent areas because I think the thin-is-good mentality is probably strongest in those areas. I know vegetables and anything healthy is problematic for lots of kids – I know local scoutmasters who can’t get the boys to eat any vegetables beyond spaghetti sauce, salsa and maybe corn on the cob – and I have some of those in my extended family. My own kids were the exceptions.

  20. “Perhaps by MS, some girls would, but I’m guessing that’s more likely to be in affluent areas because I think the thin-is-good mentality is probably strongest in those areas. ”

    I agree MS would be a better venue for salad bar than ES, but I think salad bars have potential even in less affluent areas. I was serving a Wednesday dinner at our parish (which is on the wrong side of the river) a few months ago and I was serving salad. The tween and teen girls ate it like crazy, coming back 2 and 3 times. And it was a pretty ho hum salad, too, a close relative to the one on the Detroit lunch tray. The “salad is good” message definitely got through to those girls.

  21. Looks about right. The only thing missing is grape soda!

  22. “Some students would skip important meals to avoid being identified as low- income,” said DPS Chief Operating Officer Mark Schrupp.

    Ms. Jacobs comments, “Really? Aren’t low-income students the majority in Detroit’s public schools?”

    Ms. Jacobs, one of the most logical, clear-minded writers I’ve had the pleasure to read, is not perfect.

    There is something about the topic of school lunches that turns her Bertrand Russell brain into instant oatmeal.

    Yes, low in-come students are the majority in Detroit, but that has no relation to Schrupp’s observation which is probably an understatement.

  23. Encouraging the total abdication of parental responsibility – 1 more thing that Detroit’s got going for it!

  24. Stacy in NJ says:

    We should provide free lunches for all ps students nation-wide regardless of economic aid. We could pay for it by getting rid of the layers of bureaucracy that’s employed to administer the free programs. Fire all of the local, state, and federal workers employed to administer these sorry programs.

    Also, we should offer only REALLY nutritionally responsible lunches. If the kids want to eat it – great. If not, too bad – go hungry (this philosophy works really well in my own home – ask my kids).

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      Also, we should use the US Army’s philosophy about serving size and portions: Take what you want but eat what you take.

      You can take as much or as little as you want, but you must eat everything on your plate. Also a strategy that works wonders for limiting waste in my own home.

  25. Richard Aubrey says:

    I called my congressturd about the school lunch program and got the same two answers; WW II induction phsicals showed not malnutrition but misnutrition. And, said his staffer, the ag interests aren’t going to let this drop no matter how unnecessary or screwed up it is.
    As to the obesity epidemic: Said it before. I got out of OCS underfed, overworked, at 6’2″, 205. Could whip a tiger barehanded. Today that would qualify as “overweight”. Point is not that my muscle mass–so to speak–was heavier than fat, or that the tables don’t make allowances for athletes. Point is, today I would be one more in the government figures who is overweight and demanding Something–preferably intrusive, run by the feds, and expensive–be done. The BMI tables have been ratcheted downward to a point of being ridiculous. Pardon me for being suspicious.

  26. I took my kids (9 and 6) for their annual pediatrician visit a month ago. One kid is solid muscle and is 25th percentile for height, 50th percentile for weight. He’s an amazing natural gymnast. His sister is 65th percentile for both height and weight, but has low muscle tone and has had to do physical therapy. I wouldn’t say she’s fat, but her ratio of muscle to fat is a lot lower than her brother. Guess which one the doctor was concerned about? All I could tell the pediatrician was, “Feel his arms and legs.” At some point, you have to look away from the numbers and look at the actual kid.

    That said, I was a plump kid eating one school hot lunch a day. If I’d had hot breakfast, hot lunch and snacks (betcha it’s sugary granola bars with chocolate chips) five days a week, I would have turned into a little porker.

  27. Richard Aubrey says:

    Amy P.
    Yeah, you have to look at the actual situation. However, government bureaucracies aren’t good at that. The first five letters of discretion and discrimination are the same. Might be a connection there. And the first letter of “decision” is d…. Naw. A coincidence. But government ‘crats don’t like decisions, either.
    IMO, the new, newer tables of BMI are designed to make certain, along with gummint regulations, that looking at the actual situation will be either impossible or, possibly, a felony. You can probably think of other areas where that’s already a fact.
    Still, interesting that even a pediatrician doesn’t get it. Is he young? Too little experience to moderate his education?
    My granddaughter is about fiftieth percentile height and weight and just turned four. She likes dance, and is always running around and thinks practically anything is a “play structure” which needs to be climbed on. So, although petite and graceful and absolutely beautiful, when she is doing something, the delts or quads or calf muscles are evident. Her friends don’t look much different at rest, but they are doughy or mushy. Individuals are individual and that messes up the Big Solutions.

  28. “Still, interesting that even a pediatrician doesn’t get it. Is he young? Too little experience to moderate his education?”

    It’s actually a 50ish female pediatrician, but she was looking at the growth chart, not the kid. She should have been feeling the kids’ arms and legs first.

    My husband put up a pull-up bar in our son’s doorway and he can pull himself up like nobody’s business. He also can climb up a doorframe all the way to the ceiling like an oversized gecko and he does handstands as well as somersaulting at every opportunity. I have no idea where this is coming from–definitely not from either of his parents.

  29. Richard Aubrey says:

    I have no problem seeing a kid like that, until his parents put him into formal classes. Gymnastics is a continued orthopedic assault on the body. Sounds like wrestling would be a good fit.