"We’re making sure that as they’re leaving the lunch line that the menu items they’ve selected match up with state law, so they’re selecting a meal that has all the basic [components] of good nutrition,” said school district spokesman Jarrett Peterson. “We’re not tracking what each individual child eats.” (article)
No, not tracking what he EATS. Just what he BOUGHT. Just the things, aside from the twice-cooked broccoli, he almost certainly DID eat.
YES, your local school is issuing "PIN" numbers to each child, just like Mom and Dad have for their ATM cards. Actually, this has been going on in our district since Patrick was in kindergarten, and he's a junior in high school now. I always knew they could pull up records on everything the child bought forever and ever ago, but I always thought that this was so that Mom and Dad would know what their child is eating at school and how the money is spent.
We wound up owing something along the lines of $60 for G's french toast and waffle breakfasts for a while there. HOW did we know this much money was being spent? The deadbeat "pay up on your account" letter that showed up in the mail sorta gave us a clue. I called the cafeteria manager and she was *so* nice and *so* happy to talk to me.
Oh, yes, he LOVES french toast breakfast the best, she'd tell me. And he sometimes gets an extra serving of pizza or ice cream. She knew far more about my child's eating habits than I did, tell you what. Here for about a month I'd wonder why half his lunch came home uneaten and he'd refuse to eat dinner if it were something that wasn't his favourite.
I was downright mad. Mostly at G. But partly at the fact that in the old days, you'd buy a lunch card and they'd punch that puppy when you bought a meal. NO WAY you could charge up $75 without Mom and Dad knowing. Don't have money? No food for you, boyo! And they'd add that little social stigma feature by giving the free lunch kids a different colour card than the rest of us, remember those days?
I WANT to be able to have a lunch account if it could be managed properly. There have been a few rare occasions here and there that I've been in the hospital or run out of bread... perhaps two or three times per school year. Though in G's case, to my mind, it would be ok for the kid to skip a meal and come home and eat because he has LOST TRUST at home in regard to the account. It would be a natural consequence.
But here's the thing: no matter what I said to the school about his having lunch packed every day, they wouldn't ever deny a child a meal if he came through the lunch line and wanted one. The teachers refused to take on the task of checking to see if he had a lunch, and preventing him from ordering one if he did. And get this: EVEN IF YOU DON'T HAVE MONEY IN YOUR ACCOUNT, YOU WILL BE CHARGED. Does it comfort you that they will "only" let the kid have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich if your account has a negative balance? It doesn't do too much for me... because they charge the full lunch price for the sandwich. Why wouldn't you give the kid the better meal for the same price? Profit, I'm thinking.
Easy to say "just charge the kid if he eats lunch," but at $2.30 PER DAY, and his earning $1.90 after tithe PER WEEK, you can see where this is going. Even my *trying* to put a lock on my thin child's account aroused some suspicion.
So I suppose I could check the account EVERY DAY, because I have nothing else to do, or I can train G to do a better job at self-regulation. Let's just say we're working on it. But at 15, he's still autistic, he still has an IEP and he still is pretty well functionally illiterate. No fair complaining that my homeschoolers can't tie their shoes if my publicly-educated child CAN, but can't read the shoebox they come in. (Just saying. We all have different abilities, ok?) So his self-regulation difficulties and his IEP would make for a good argument that SOMEONE ought to ensure that he isn't racking up a huge cafeteria bill for breakfast when he ate at home, and lunch when he has a perfectly good peanut butter sandwich in his bag. It's maddening.
Here's where I'm coming from: if you're on the free lunch program, you're accepting some oversight into what your child is eating at school. And if they want to track you, tough noogies. Don't like it? Don't eat "free" food. But those of us who are paying out of pocket do NOT need our information tracked at the state level. That's just wrong.
I'm wondering if the children in the article cited above are on the free lunch program. Yes, it makes a difference. It sure sounds as though these parents aren't going to keep their children away from eating the lunches as I do, so it's a suspicious situation in my mind. Hellooo, parents, "free" really isn't free.