The Times West Virginian

May 5, 2013

Is ‘Feed to Achieve’ program a sound idea?

Times West Virginian

— Today, bars and taverns typically keep small and salty food in bowls on the counter. The more peanuts or pretzels you consume, the thirstier you become.

The thirstier you are, the more likely you are to buy another cold one. And the profit lost on a serving or two of peanuts is more than made up on the price of another beverage added to your tab.

It’s not a new concept.

The following is an advertisement for a Milwaukee saloon:

“At The Crescent...

Can be found the choicest of Segars, Wines and Liquors...

N. B. - A free lunch every day at 11 o’clock will be served up.”

That actually dates back to 1850, and we’re not just talking about peanuts or pretzels. There was a very nice selection of cold meats, cheese and foods, enough to draw in patrons who purchased drinks and enjoyed their “free lunch.”

And it was enough to draw the ire of temperance movement. In fact, some saloon owners were prosecuted for false advertising, considering that you couldn’t have a “free lunch” unless you paid for the drinks consumed.

Hence, there’s no such things as a free lunch.

And you can make an argument that the federal free lunch program, launched in 1946 and upgraded many times since, isn’t “free” since it’s paid through federal funding. However, the purpose, as stated by the amended act in 1966, “In recognition of the demonstrated relationship between food and good nutrition and the capacity of children to develop and learn, based on the years of cumulative successful experience under the National School Lunch Program with its significant contributions in the field of applied nutrition research ...”

With a full belly, a child is much more likely to pay attention and learn. And sadly, for far too many children, the meals at school constitute the only healthy meals they’ll have all day, or in the worst circumstances, the only food a child will get.

In comes in West Virginia’s Feed to Achieve program, which will provide a free breakfast and lunch to every single student in public school, from kindergarten to 12th grade.

he bill, a first of its kind nationwide, would create a partnership between private donations and public funds. It’s based on a program in Mason County that officials say has improved attendance and decreased discipline problems.

Of course, when it came up for debate in the House of Delegates, not everyone supported the bill as is.

““I think it would be a good idea if perhaps we had the kids work for their lunches: trash to be taken out, hallways to be swept, lawns to be mowed, make them earn it,” said Ray Canterbury, R-Greenbrier, during a two-hour hearing in the House. “If they (students) miss a lunch or they miss a meal they might not, in that class that afternoon, learn to add, they may not learn to diagram a sentence, but they’ll learn a more important lesson.”

Of course that drew a lot of criticism for the delegate, thinking of second-graders sweeping the cafeteria before they were given a plate of food.

“It is pathetic that in a country as wealthy as this, that we’re talking about whether we should feed kids or not,” House Majority Leader Brent Boggs said. “Somebody better check your pulse and see if you’re still living if these things don’t touch you.”

So the bill, which should be signed into law soon, is drawing a lot of chatter because it’s pretty novel. So we thought we’d take it to our online readers who log on to each week to vote in out online poll question. Last week, we asked, “What are your thoughts on West Virginia’s Feed to Achieve bill that would blend private donations and federal money to provide food in schools?”

And here’s what you had to say:

• I agree with Delegate Ray Canterbury — there’s no free lunch and kids should have to work for meals — 25.64 percent.

• Hungry kids cannot focus on school work. This is a great solution — 33.33 percent.

• I fear that private donations will be healthy at first and then dry up ... and where will we be? — 41.03 percent.

We’ll just have to see. This week, let’s talk about some high-profile criminal cases that have involved teens and social media. Should we as parents take a more active role in what our kids text, message or post?

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor