Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

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 Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Feb 28th, 2009 at 10:06:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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