Monica Lane, whose 4-year-old granddaughter is in prekindergarten at Gilmor Elementary School in Baltimore, brought this situation to my attention:
The first week of school, Lane turned in an application for her granddaughter, Tyla, to receive free lunch. Most kids in the city school system get free or reduced-price lunch, subsidized by the federal government, because of their family incomes. Turns out, though, applications for subsidized lunches take around three weeks to process.
So for kids new to their schools (including all those in prekindergarten) whose parents didn't turn in the lunch applications over the summer, there's a problem. They can pay $2 to get a full lunch, but, of course, the reason they're applying for subsidized lunch in the first place is because they can't afford that. Or, kids without lunch money can receive a "complimentary lunch" of a cheese sandwich or cereal with milk.
The scenario raises a host of concerns, as Lane points out: Kids eating the complimentary lunches come home starving. Her granddaughter, she points out, eats lunch at 10 a.m., and school goes until 2:45. And what about those who are lactose intolerant? (Being lactose intolerant myself, I'm particularly sympathetic to this concern.) Tyla's not a fan of cheese or white milk (chocolate is OK), so one day she ate dry cereal. What's more, by eating what are clearly second-class lunches, children can be subjected to teasing by their peers.
"There are kids who don't eat good at home," says Lane, who's been sending Tyla with $2 a day since she became aware of the situation -- and found the little girl ecstatic when she got a slice of meat between her two slices of bread. "They may not get a good breakfast or they may not get a good dinner."
Andres Alonso, the CEO of the city schools, told me he'll investigate the situation. I'll post again with an update when I hear back.