Children cannot learn when they are hungry. At the end of the past school year, the National School Lunch Program ended in public and charter schools. For the past two years, all children, regardless of income or proof of need, were able to get at least one free meal at school. Even during lockdowns schools provided times for students to pick up a bagged lunch. For some students, this was the one meal they could count on.
Currently, families can apply at their children’s school for free or reduced lunch. This is a great option for families who understand the system. I have worked at schools where parents are refugees, immigrants, or struggle with significant mental health issues. These are just a few of the barriers to parents understanding their ability in ensuring that their students get a meal in school.
There is also a large population of children who, for whatever reason, do not live with a parent. These are children who are bounced around the foster care system, who sleep on a friend’s or relative’s couch to escape abuse, or children who have been abandoned by their family and are attempting to avoid being put in the system. All children deserve to not have to worry about hunger while trying to learn.
Our local government leaders should know that these are their children as much as ours, those of us who work with them every day. I hope that our local school boards and our elected leaders will acknowledge the obligation we owe to Utah’s children, regardless of who their parents are. Provide more funding so we can feed our students.
Amanda Theel, Salt Lake City