I know a lot of you are cursing the decorated shoeboxes on your tables right now. Your kids might be out cold, napping their Valentine’s parties off. Or, maybe, they’re outside running laps around the dog, spazzing from all the sugar and artificial dyes, tunneling their way through the snow to China, who knows. I used to be the first to scoff at all the artificial gobbledegook and how my kids respond to it, wishing it wasn’t there to begin with. But, I know we can do better at home, so now I let it go and advocate for it.
Why, you ask?
Because there are children in my kids’ class who can’t do better. In fact, they might not have anything at all. This Valentine’s party and the school holiday celebrations.. they have might be the only real treats they ever see. Heck, these goodies might be the only food they eat that day.
You may have read in the news lately about a Utah school throwing away school lunches, or the Minnesota school tossing kids’ lunches when they can’t pay, too. These schools are taking these lunches away from the kids who couldn’t pay for them, whose accounts were in the negative. This is unfortunately not new. Schools want to hold parents accountable by forcibly shaming their children in a place where the kids should feel safe. In some cases, school is their escape from whatever hell that lies in wait for them at home. These kids can’t force their parents to pay the school for their lunch, so, instead of the school advocating for the kids when they’re going without, they’ve turned against the kids, shaming them even further for being forced to eat cheese sandwiches, fruit, and/or milk.
Kids are going hungry at school for a myriad of reasons. I don’t know what to do about it, I don’t know how to change it, other than to become our local lunch angel like the Houston man, and help pay for delinquent accounts. But that won’t help them all, unfortunately.
What WILL help is if schools stop this throwing-the-lunch-out crapola and start allowing snacks in classes again. The school day is such a long day to only eat once. With our many military moves, we’ve experienced a few schools with classrooms where there was a designated snack time during the day, with loads of donated snacks, and always allergy-free choices to be had, too. These snacks came from many sources – the teacher, donations to the class, or money donated towards “supplies” for the classroom. Bless those teachers who truly understood what hunger does to a kid. I am so grateful to them, not only for helping my children, but for helping those who can’t help themselves, too.
As for the Valentine’s Day parties and holiday parties? Bring. Them. On. The more the merrier, the bigger the better. I won’t ever hesitate sending in food, and lots of it. Most of the time the schools want prepackaged, store-bought stuff now, and I’m okay with whatever they need, baked or store-bought, veggies, cookies or otherwise. And I will always bring extra if they need it, too.
I know some folks want to downgrade the level of spaz their kids have to endure, so when these parties crop up, instead of sending treats to school, they send crafts, pencils, rubber balls, and holiday-themed trinkets to lessen the sugar burden. And I get it, because I used to be there myself, until I witnessed hunger firsthand. Now, my opinion is DON’T – consider the spaz and excitement emanating from your kids the price to be paid for ensuring your child’s classmate ate that day. And schools, if you’re one of those schools that don’t allow parties anymore, STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. Take a good, hard look at your students and their lunch accounts and tell me whether they can afford to not celebrate parties if they can’t even afford their lunches.
I watched today as a line of red and pink dressed children, each holding a decorated shoebox, crossed the road to the arms of their parents or to start the walk home alone. These shoeboxes were visibly filled and brimming with love notes and trinkets from their classmates.. and I hope, filled with food and candy. I couldn’t tell just looking at them if any of these kids were hurting and immediately in need, but God help me, I am just so glad those boxes were FULL. Today, they at least have something to bring home. To fill their bellies.
Now let’s work together to help their tomorrows be filled with somethings, too.