Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Display:
I don't know how interesting this will be to Europeans - perhaps you've solved the Free Lunch problem there - but I had to get this off my chest.  I'm off to bed but will check back in the morning.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes
by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 27th, 2009 at 05:26:03 AM EST
The simple solution would be to make the lunches free for all the kids, and teachers and staff, and pay for it out of general taxes.

And this is a general issue, everywhere. The fact that a free lunch is good for education is even an important insight in development economics.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Feb 27th, 2009 at 05:48:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm in agreement with your 'simple' solution, but... people are ridiculously resistant.  

Part of the problem here is that the schools have been such a political pawn for so long.  My whole life I've been reading and hearing the right wail about how the schools in poor areas are 'wasting' money.  

I admit that here in California in the '70s, there was a small nugget of truth in the complaints -- a lot of 'liberal' programs had been instituted which were clearly ridiculous.  

There were various new ways of teaching reading and math that were dismal failures, but, worse, many 'alternative' programs that... well, let's just say a goodly amount of the people I knew in the LA punk scene had been subjected to Scientology and EST in high school.

However, most of that was short-lived.  The real problems started with the dismantling of the safety net.  Schools suddenly had to provide food, medical care, and policing.  Of course the budgets ballooned.  For the past 25 years or so, almost everything I've read about schools, usually in the interest of pushing vouchers or charter schools, has been a load of crap.

I was on a committee for an inner-city school for awhile, deciding how to allocate a federal grant they'd gotten.  Almost all the money was going to social services.  Teachers have long known that hungry kids don't learn well.  When this school got its grant, we fully funded the lunches and added in breakfasts.  

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 27th, 2009 at 04:10:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ye...esss..breakfast clubs-that's another point.

My son's suburban school and mine both run breakfast clubs for year 6 during SATs week.

At his school, we will get the menu, choose his cooked breakfast, choice of cereals and juices, number of slices of toast-and send in a cheque.  The school cooks are paid for the extra shifts.

At my school, the breakfast club is funded by the staff. We feed them toast and jam and juice, paid for out of the head teacher's own pocket.  The rest of us come in early and unpaid, bearing our own domestic toasters and reliant on the goodwill of friends looking after our own children before school. Some of us even make muffins.  

To be taken up by those who really need it, a breakfast club would have to be free.  We know we need one-a lot of our children don't eat breakfast.  But it takes quite a few of us to make and waitress all-you-can-eat toast and jam to just sixty kids in the time available.  And the paid-for-by-the-staff model isn't exactly sustainable over the long term.  :(

by Sassafras on Fri Feb 27th, 2009 at 05:53:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Teachers are so underpaid and undervalued here.  I really admire these kind of efforts, but you are right in that the LEA/Government should make this provision not the teachers themselves.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sat Feb 28th, 2009 at 03:43:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My child's school has a breakfast club but
  1. breakfast is not free
  2. the younger children cannot be left unattended - this cannot be used as a morning child care facility by working parents.


Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Feb 28th, 2009 at 10:03:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the student's brain doesn't have the energy it needs to work right -- it won't.

Almost pointless to try and educate hungry or malnourished kids.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Feb 28th, 2009 at 07:09:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And to that end, can we please ban candy, chips and sugar-containing sodas from our schools? Trying to teach a class of kids who are hopped up to their nostrils on sugar is an exercise in herding cats and teaching them tricks at the same time.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Mar 1st, 2009 at 02:48:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From my experience as a Parent Governor in a primary school in Greater London:
  1. children of families on benefits above a certain level are aligible for free school meals
  2. the fraction of pupils eligible for school meals is taken as a key socioeconomic indicator when comparing results across schools, nationally
  3. in the primary school where I was, school meals were paid weekly to the local educational authority, but were collected by the class teacher. Unless someone was keeping tabs on which parents or children never gave the teacher a "dinner money envelope" there was no way to know which children were on free school meals. In particular, all children were given the same food choices at lunch time.
  4. the school system seemed to take privacy as a child protection issue and child protection was taken very seriously so having children be stigmatised for being on free school meals would raise all kinds of alarms
Maybe I had a too rosy picture of the theory and the reality was different, but I doubt it.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 27th, 2009 at 06:03:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Seconded.

I work in an inner-city primary school, and the free school meals children are well looked after.

At my daughter's high school, they use a debit card system as Izzy describes.  No one has any way of telling whose card is loaded by the local authority, and whose by cheque.

The issue here, however, is those who are poor but don't qualify for free school meals.

There is no presumption here that a child will eat a school lunch.  Many bring sandwiches, and there's no stigma attached.  In fact, the poor quality and cheap ingredients of school meals means that it's more often the middle classes who opt to bring their own.

In primary school, paid-for meals are booked and paid for a week in advance.  No money, no meal.

That's not to say that any child will be allowed to go without lunch: a dinner register is taken alongside the attendance register and a hungry child will be fed.  In fact, I've had several retrospective bills for school lunches after my son has left his sandwiches at home.  But a parent of a primary school child who sent in neither money nor sandwiches on a regular basis would find themselves receiving a phone call from the school's designated child protection officer fairly quickly. And rightly, in my opinion, because if a child isn't getting fed there's a serious cause for concern.

High school, though-staggered lunchtimes, scattered dining arrangements-frankly, I'm not convinced they'd know if a child wasn't being fed.

by Sassafras on Fri Feb 27th, 2009 at 10:08:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, the debit card system isn't completely as Izzy describes, because there's no facility to go overdrawn.  The school credits parental cheques to the child's account before they're banked, admittedly, so it would be possible to end up owing them money if I bounced a cheque.

But if there's no money on the card, they can't buy anything.

by Sassafras on Fri Feb 27th, 2009 at 12:06:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, the debit card system isn't completely as Izzy describes, because there's no facility to go overdrawn.

Actually, that's how I was aware that it worked, too.  The thing in the article about kids getting overdrawn was news to me, but I'm assuming that in the poorer districts they've added in that feature.  The article says that the NM district being discussed already has about 3/5 of the students on subsidized lunches.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 27th, 2009 at 04:16:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem with middle class families not taking up the school meals is that the paying pupils subsidize the ones eligible for free school meals. If school meal take-up drops too much the system will cease to be financially viable.


Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Feb 28th, 2009 at 10:06:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Display:

Occasional Series