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Dear White Women

Sep 18, 2019

Join Sara and Misasha as they “dish” on school lunches: affordability, why kids are going hungry, and a public comment period that’s open until September 23rd, 2019. Federal assistance may potentially be cut for 500,000 kids, so what happens to lunch if that happens? Finally, you don’t want to miss Sara and Misasha sharing their favorite childhood school lunches, as well as what their kids eat!

Show Highlights:

  • There are high numbers of children who rely on breakfast and lunch at school because they don’t get fed at home.
  • At the end of July, Pennsylvania officials came under fire for when they attempted to collect money owed for school lunches in one of the poorest districts in the state. After failing to reach families through other modes of communication, the Director of Federal Programs for the Wyoming Valley West School District sent a letter to about 1,000 families who owed an average of $28, stating that “Your child has been sent to school every day without money, and without a breakfast and/or lunch. This is a failure to provide your child with proper nutrition, and you can be sent to Dependency Court for neglecting your child’s right to food. If you are taken to Dependency Court, the result may be your child being removed from your home and placed in foster care.”
  • After this letter was sent, county officials dismissed the threat, stating it was empty and was not going to be acted on. 
  • In the Wyoming Valley West School District in Pennsylvania, 1 in 5 children lives in poverty. In the coming year, free lunches will be provided to ALL students in the district because at least 60% of them meet the federal income threshold to qualify for free school meals.
  • For a family of 4 living in the contiguous United States, if you make $47,638 annually (or the equivalent of $917 per week), you qualify for reduced lunch.
  • The threshold for free school meals is $33,475 annually (or the equivalent of $644 per week). This would mean that a student would qualify for free breakfasts and lunches.
  • For a family of 4, you meet the federal guidelines for poverty if your annual income is less than $25,750.
  • As the example in Pennsylvania highlights, there’s a lot of hostility towards low-income students and families who struggle with hunger.
  • In Georgia, Brandy Whitehead’s 6-year-old daughter told her mother she was hungry when her mom picked her up from kindergarten in early 2018. Her lunch had only consisted of a cheese sandwich and water. The reason was that over the holiday, Whitehead had overlooked a notice from the school district saying she owed “a couple of dollars in student lunch debt”. By the time the students returned to school, the debt had risen to the $12.50 limit allowed before students are served alternative meals.
  • Whitehead’s daughter ate several meals of cheese sandwiches before the mom was notified of the debt. The daughter thought she was being punished for something she did, and has not forgotten this experience.
  • Sara and Misasha break down the national school lunch program.
  • Lunch programs not only feed a child’s hunger, but they also fuel a child’s mental health and physical growth.
  • Experiencing poverty in your early years can have long-lasting, multi-dimensional consequences.
  • Misasha recounts statistics involving racial disparity in hunger.
  • It falls on the shoulders of school administrators to commit to more equitable school lunch practices.
  • Misasha reviews proposals and major changes in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) and the School Lunch Program.
  • Here’s the good news: While this rule has been proposed, it is not done. You have the ability to go online and voice your concerns, but you only have until September 23rd to do this!




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Best Practices for Preventing or Reducing School Meal Debt


Toolkit for Lunch Lines



Agency Information Collection Activities; Proposals, Submissions, and Approvals: National School Lunch Program

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