Students and parents are outraged after the school board in Waukesha, Wisconsin opted out of a program that would provide free lunch to students throughout the school year. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit parents hard in the pocket, families are left scrambling to find affordable lunch options for their children.
"I think after everything we've been through in the last 18 months, anything we can do to help these families and help these kids with the basic necessities of life is so important," Chrissy Sebald, a foster parent in the area, told WISN.
Parents are not only frustrated, but they are also very confused. By all accounts, Waukesha is the only town in the state to have opted out of the program this year. Waukesha, much like other areas of the state, is dealing with an economic downturn during the pandemic. As a result, many parents are asking, "Why introduce an additional economic hardship when families are struggling as is?"
"Their job has been put on hold, or they're in the restaurant industry or something like, and they may not qualify for free and reduced lunch. But this program is just part of that safety net," Sebald added.
Members of the Waukesha School District have pushed back and argued that families do not need the program anymore. According to their records, there is a 40% drop in need for free lunch than there was at this point last year.
"When you compare last summer's number of meals served to the current summer's level of participation, it is down 40%. This indicates a lowering in the demand for this program," members of the school district explained to WISN.
"When looking at the free breakfast program, especially at the high school level, each student was handed a meal as they walked in the door. This led to a significant amount of uneaten food and meal-related materials ending up in the trash."
Adding on, The Washington Post reports that school board member Karin Rajnicek said the students "became spoiled" because of the program. Another member by the name of Darren Clark felt that the kids were developing a “slow addiction” to the service.
Over time, the debate regarding the district's school lunch program has moved from being a local conversation to a national conversation. "Waukesha" trended nationally Friday morning as many people around the country trashed the school board for denying free lunch to children.