Free-for-All in the Cafeteria

Editorial Board, New York Times, April 10, 2014

More than a million children attend public schools in New York City. About 780,000 of them are poor enough to qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch. Getting into the program requires some paperwork, which is a burden but not a terrible one; the application is just one page. So why do so many eligible children–about 250,000–not participate?

The problem, advocates for schoolchildren say, isn’t so much aversion to the menu–today across the city, it’s roast turkey, stewed beans, sweet plantains and an oatmeal raisin cookie (plus chickpea salad, for high schoolers)–as it is the embarrassment and bullying that come from being identified as poor, from being seen taking the “free-free,” the derisive nickname New York schoolchildren give to subsidized lunches.

A stigma is an anecdotal phenomenon, but advocates say it’s real, pervasive and borne out by school-lunch participation rates, which plummet as children get older. It’s 81 percent in elementary school, 61 percent in middle school and 38 percent in high school. Many teenagers, it seems safe to assume, would rather go hungry or eat junk from vending machines than get caught in the wrong line for turkey and beans.

Here is where you would expect to hear a conservative’s bootstrap lecture telling poor kids to brown-bag it or suck it up. But the more realistic and understanding response would be to find other ways to encourage children to take the food they’re eligible for.

Here’s one we like: Make lunches free. For everyone. The city should stop collecting lunch money and pay what it takes to eliminate the “free-free” stigma.

A coalition of advocacy groups and elected officials in the city is pushing this idea. They argue that for a minuscule investment in universal free lunches–about $20 million in a $25 billion annual schools budget–the city would increase participation by 20 percent, or 120,000 meals a day.


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  • Alexandra1973

    My sister and I had reduced-price lunches at school. Others had free lunches. I don’t recall anyone ever being harassed about it. I was bullied quite a lot (and I admit a lot of it was because of my lack of social skills), but the reduced-price lunch issue never came up.

    • sbuffalonative

      I know. I never knew anyone to harass anyone or anyone to suffer a stigma.

      But of course, this is just one in the latest theories on why minorities fail.

    • ncpride

      I concur. I can’t remember a single time during all my school years that kids made fun of others for free lunch. I’ve even asked my own children if they have heard of such a thing, and they both said no. I don’t buy this nonsense.

      • LHathaway

        The world is insane. Everyone is trying to ‘do the right thing’ though, no doubt.

    • GeneticsareDestiny

      I got free lunch my entire 13 years of public schooling (K-12). Not once did I ever even hear about someone being bullied or teased about it. This wasn’t even remotely a topic anyone discussed.

      Also, in the school district I went to at least, it’s impossible to tell just from looking if someone gets free lunch or not. You don’t stand in a different line or anything. Every child gets a lunch number that they punch in; the kids who get free lunch simply type it in and go on their way, while the kids who don’t get free lunch type it in and have the money deducted from their account.

      There is zero stigma about this. The real reason free lunch participation drops off as kids get older is because:
      1) A lot of schools allow kids to leave campus for lunch, and most high school kids would much rather eat at McDonalds than eat cafeteria food
      2) A good chunk of the free lunch kids are perfectly capable of affording their own food
      3) School lunch food is often disgusting and anyone who can afford to eat something else (see #2) will
      4) It’s not cool to eat school lunch. It will have a definite impact on your popularity, which is important to high schoolers, especially the lower-IQ ones (who are most likely to be on free lunch)

      • evilsandmich

        School lunch food is often disgusting and anyone who can afford to eat something else
        We have a winner! With the idiotic influence of Big Zero’s wife, the near-hospital quality food “enjoyed” at American high schools has gotten even worse – no one will eat it even if it’s free. (I’ll note though that there’s a great amount of variation between schools. I recall being in a high school in the early nineties around Columbus, Ohio and they had a Dominoes and a Taco Bell built into the school’s food court.)

      • During my senior high school year my girlfriend and I had no classes at all on Wednesday afternoons, so we always walked to my mother’s house and ate lunch there. Those were some very pleasant afternoons.

  • the embarrassment and bullying that come from being identified as poor, from being een taking the “free-free,”

    NAMs ashamed at taking gibs? When did that start? Especially when you read in the paragraph above that that more than half of NYCPS students are actually getting free lunch.

    I think the real reason is that the parents are too dumb or lazy to fill out the application.

    A stigma is an anecdotal phenomenon, but advocates say it’s real, pervasive and borne out by school-lunch participation rates, which plummet as children get older. It’s 81 percent in elementary school, 61 percent in middle school and 38 percent in high school. Many teenagers, it seems safe to assume, would rather go hungry or eat junkfrom vending machines than get caught in the wrong line for turkey and beans.

    Or, this could be a function of dropouts. Those that drop out are more likely to be free lunch recipients.

  • Ed

    Lol the high school kids that get free lunch simply don’t want the food. At my high school we could leave campus and most days we did.

    These activists really don’t know squat.

    • Pro_Whitey

      These advocates probably get paid based on the percentage of participation in the program. If I’m right, then any excuse will do.

      • r j p

        Schools do get money based on participation rate.

    • APaige

      They do not even know the Negro mind. When have Blacks ever turned down something that was free. I have posted before when I worked in downtown Chicago there would be a line of Blacks on the sidewalk waiting to get a small free sample of food. Many wearing suits and risking being late to ‘work.’

      • TXCriollo

        Blacks are so use to free its disgusting. I remember a joke my buddy told me, he is from monroe mi close to Detroit. The joke was the news should do a story on a black guy getting to work in time. At 19 it was funny but 7 years later im thinking that might be hard to find

        • The time zone is called CT: Colored (people’s) Time.

          Obama uses that time zone.

      • Alexandra1973

        I can tell you one instance, I think it’s in an article here.

        When given free MREs after Hurricane Katrina, they threw a lot of it out because it wasn’t to their liking. Beggars being choosy.

        But that says something about their logic, doesn’t it?

    • r j p

      We couldn’t leave the campus, nearest store / restaurant was two to three miles away.

  • The Final Solution

    It is now a right in this country to burden society with your worthless family and children. These people should be punished, not accommodated. They should all be sent to labor camps where they can work in exchange for lunch money to feed their own families.

    • Whitetrashgang

      Yeah if you don’t work you get nothing but a room and a mouse trap to try to get something to eat.

    • So CAL Snowman

      These people should be the ones picking our crops and working in the fields instead of illegal alien invaders and seasonal migrant workers. It blows my mind that we have millions upon millions of worthless unemployed blacks and their children sucking down welfare and the government’s position is to import brown invaders to work the fields instead of mandating that home grown blacks on welfare work the fields and “pay their fair share.”

      • Einsatzgrenadier

        We already had an abundant source of low-IQ labor, but the federal government just had to go out of its way to import another 3rd world underclass. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, until you realize that they want to completely destroy the white ethnic and national identity of the US and kill off its white population.

      • Ron Cheaters

        Asking a black to work on a farm would be racist. So you see, there’s always an excuse to do nothing.

  • Luca

    Let me get this straight, out of about a million students and 780,000, or around 78% are designated as eligible for free lunch? And we are to believe the remaining 22% are going to make fun of the majority 78%?

    You would think Liberals would come up with better theories or excuses, but since they are not capable of anything intelligent they simply spout off garden variety nonsense and expect everyone to play along.

    • Even when there are no real victims, the psycopathy of liberalism means they have to invent victims. Liberalism is really and truly a mental disease.

    • Nathanwartooth

      Since they had no real life examples of the bullying, I’m going to say that it’s all fabricated.

      In reality, the free kids probably make fun of the kids who pay. “Why would you pay for something that I get for free?”

      Also “free-free” sounds like a black slang term to me. So in reality it’s probably more like “fee-fee” to make it sound more ghetto.

  • Urbane Neanderthal

    Kids should be embarrassed that their parents can’t afford to feed them to motivate themselves not to be poor.

    • Einsatzgrenadier

      Parents who can’t even afford to feed their own children should never have been allowed to become parents in the first place.

  • sbuffalonative

    With this stigma removed, I expect all children of all races to perform equally well.

    • TXCriollo

      Didnt byron brownout fridays try this in buffalo? I remember him doing this but I was long gone from buffalo

    • dcc2379

      With Common Core not teaching anything, they will.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    … today across the city, it’s roast turkey, stewed beans, sweet plantains and an oatmeal raisin cookie (plus chickpea salad, for high schoolers)…

    So THAT’S what it is?? Really? Government school food is inedible, in no way resembles anything fit for human consumption — looks terrible and smells even worse.

    Feeding it to children is akin to child abuse…

    And that was BEFORE Michelle Obama’s school food initiatives!!

    Now, it resembles no known substance on planet earth, edible or otherwise.

    That food in the bottom picture looks like what they were spooning out in a show I watched recently on Russia’s toughest prisons. Inedible looking, but one of the inmates was a cannibal.

    Makes one pine for the old days of mystery meat covered in library paste gravy…

    When you figure out WHAT this is, let me know!!

    • Ron Cheaters

      Its what the troubled kids do/make to earn extra credit if they want to stay in school instead of drop out. At least thats how it went in my high school over 20 years ago.
      I believe they take their frustrations out on the food and the poor folks who dare to eat it. (By poor, I mean clueless)

    • PvtCharlieSlate

      Instead of trying to figure out what that stuff is, why not just ask the guy who ate it first?

    • dcc2379

      780,000 kids get what they pay for.

    • I’m going with the lower two. I’m not a big fan of broccoli, but anything is good when you put cheese sauce on it. The one in the middle is a close second, because I know what an egg roll and fried rice look like. In the top picture, the sinister looking mass in the right front could be absolutely anything.

      I am suprised these are served on what appears to be styrofoam. When I was kid, we ate lunch on plastic trays that were run through a dish washer and re-used.

  • MekongDelta69

    “More than a million children attend public schools in New York City. About 780,000 of them are poor enough to qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch.”

    Typical New York Slimes (non-)’reasoning’ math.

    So, 250,000 chilluns are going to bully 780,000 chilluns?

    Yeah – ok…

    • IstvanIN

      You know how Thurston Howell be goin round and pickin on George Jefferson and Fred Sanford.

  • Rusty Shackelford

    I’d expect nothing less from the Times editorial board. Maybe if the kids on the free free feel a bit shame, it might motivate them to not be poor when they grow up. To do for their own children what their parents could not or would not do for them.
    Besides, can we just admit that schools with majority black and brown student bodies are really just warehouses – places to keep them off the streets for a few hours each day…a taxpayer funded day care service for their parents?

    • FransSusan

      Rusty Shakelford, Nothing seems to motivate these thangs to make good decisions. When whitey pays for everything, why would they ever be motivated to do anything but be a parasite throughout their lives.

  • r j p

    In high school, school lunch was 60 cents. I actually liked it. You could only make one pass through the lunch line, but you could have all the bread and butter and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you wanted. If that wasn’t enough, they sold Little Debbie snacks during study hall. If I forgot money, the lunch lady would let me pay the next day. Also ran a tab at the school store in case I needed gum or mints. I went to a dream of a high school.

    • Nathanwartooth

      My high school had pizza on the menu every day of the week. So that is what I ate. Sometimes if there was something really good on the main menu, I would get that instead of pizza.

      • Alexandra1973

        My high school (Ferndale High in Michigan–Detroit suburb) had a salad bar line, two lines for the regular menu, and two lines for pizza. Lots of times I went for the salad bar. I made myself a kind of taco salad there.

    • saxonsun

      The ah hah moment.

    • Me too, but lunch was $1.25. It was still a bargain. We had a soup & salad alternative for the usual lunch. Fairview High School in south Boulder, CO. Class of 1984.

      • Alexandra1973

        Class of 1991 here. School lunch was probably around that much at my school, but I only paid 40 cents. $2 a week.

        • School lunches are all USDA subsidy stuff. The feds buy up meat and crops as a price support using our tax money. If US kids who’s parents are short of change benefit from this, I have no problem. Feeding our own is certainly better than sending the food to Bongostan so they can eat well enough to continue producing more white-hating blacks.

  • Bobbala

    … and when the children from the “privileged” families don’t accept the state’s generous gift of their own money, it will become mandatory … like all other universally popular and beloved acts of Dear Leader.

  • OhWow

    Next they will be saying everyone should commit violent crimes everyday to make black people feel better and less stigmatized.

    • dcc2379

      Next thing you know, they will tell dads not to sign birth certificates so blacks feell less stigmatized.

  • Jesse_from_Sweden

    Or one could do it real simple by making these free lunches be available to all students.

    Simply make the lunches redeemable by a meal ticket, and these tickets can be bought by all students in bunches of say 10 or 20 at a time.
    Those that get free lunches simply get the same tickets, but are given them for free instead of having to buy them.

    And the stigma is gone, because even those that pay for their school lunches will now do it the same way as those that get them for free.

    Yeah, that does give the new problem of those receiving free lunches instead opting to sell their tickets to someone that doesn’t get a free lunch, but that does remove the stigma, doesn’t it.
    And maybe they can use that cash they get to buy themselves some junk food from the vending machine or whatever.
    But hey, at least they aren’t going hungry.

    • r j p

      Where my sister’s kids go to school they use swipe cards.
      Even when I when to school lunch tickets were issued discretely.
      Here in Illinois, foodstamps are $192 per month per person,
      and yet they are still provided with free breakfast and lunch.
      So that means $192 per “chidren” for dinner for a month.
      Thats’s over $6 per day per “chidren”
      See a problem?

      • dcc2379

        It is $192 of my money too much.

      • In Colorado, the food stamp program requires recipients to perform useful community service, just as misdemeanor offenders. It also requires that they actively seek work and provide a monthly contact list as proof. This doubtless scares off a lot of the more deliberate freeloaders.

    • HamletsGhost

      When I went to junior high school in New York in the 70s, that exactly how the system was set up. Lunch tickets were 75 cents, but you could buy one from the black kids in the halls for 50 cents. After saving up our quarters, we could afford to buy cokes and other junk from the junk food cage at the end of the week.
      I always wondered how the blacks could afford to eat at the junk food cage with only $2.50 that would barely last two days. I guess they either mugged other kids for their lunch money (this never happened to me, but I heard about it) or they simply ditched school by the end of the week.
      Another thing, those blacks never seemed the least bit embarrassed about what they were doing. Self-esteem didn’t appear to be one of their problems.

  • Andy

    This doesn’t make much sense. In most public schools I know of, kids now have an account that they buy their lunches from. It doesn’t make a difference whether it’s parents putting the money in or the state.

  • dcc2379

    There is also free breakfast. Because I’m a more compassionate conservative, grin grin, why not say that because the typical welfare bum gets 40 free meals per month, act like the meals are three per day and over a 28 day period, reduce the amount by 40/84. Not that this article addresses it, but I’d still change welfare to workfare.

    • r j p

      …. I’d still change welfare to workfare.
      I agree. Why is the City of Chicongo paying people $20 something an hour plus benefits to sweep up streets and sidewalks when fat black women are sitting at home on tax money — aka welfare.
      There was never any trash in the streets where I grew up. One night some a**hole went nuts after leaving the bar I worked in and tossed our trash into the street. I spent two hours cleaning up the glass in the street.
      Oh the good old days….. A senile doctor who wasn’t allowed to smoke that lived across the street would come over and get a glass of water. Then he would grab a handful of match packs. He would put one cigarette in one match pack and hide them all over the neighborhood.

  • JackKrak

    How many of those “students” waiting in line for dey free lunch pass the time playing with their iphones?

  • Shawn_thefemale

    So are they saying that even elementary school kids are savvy enough to notice the takers taking and give them a hard time? My heart soars….

  • RyanP

    It is a normal and healthy response to feel some shame about taking freebies. I am pleasantly surprised to hear that so many are not taking the hand out.

  • RyanP

    I was in school in the 80;s in Canada. There was no lunch program for anyone. We had poor kids at our school but no free lunches. Somehow they did not starve to death. To mey knowledge there are still no school lunch programs in Canada. At least not government funded ones.

    As for school breakfasts. I spent almost all of my teen years skipping breakfast. My family was far from poor.

    • GenX Antipodean

      No free lunches in these other Commonwealth countries down in the South Pacific either.
      If you’re really struggling here beyond what welfare payments give you, we have food banks often run by Christian affiliated charities such as the Salvation Army, who’ll give you either a box of food and/or food vouchers to be used as cash(with restrictions) at major supermarkets. I was chatting with a supermarket employee once who told me that the voucher people never ever use them for fruit or vegetables, but instead always fill their trolleys with sugary Coke, chocolate bars/biscuits and potato chips and would then use their cash for cigarettes and alcohol.
      I guess welfare types have a similar instant gratification mentality world wide and across all racial groups(at differing levels of representation of course).

  • Ella

    Most of those free lunch programs end up in trash as many minority students desire their greasy ethnic foods. Breakfast is the biggest waste as students socialize and ignore the milk, apples, and cereal in front of them. And, what is the purpose of SNAP?

  • One probably has to talk to 3rd grade black girls about puberty et al because so many of them are already starting it. Read up on your Rushton.

    • evilsandmich

      The story I always relate is the 35 year old black cleaning woman who worked at our office for a spell (before being fired for talking on her cell phone 24×7) who spoke a couple times about what a pain menopause was. Early start, early finish.

  • I was lucky enough that my high school had a “soup & salad” offering as an optional substitute for the regular garbage on a sub-compartmented jailhouse tray. I never needed to lose weight; I just liked that sort of lunch better. I always had the salad with ranch dressing; obviously I was not trying to slim down. I merely liked it better.

    I turned 48 today, but at six feet even, I weigh 155 pounds and look like I could be 25-30 years old, I have never weighed over 170 pounds in my life.

    Schools have the option of teaching students dietary habits that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives, but that would be “cultural imperialism”.

    • Alexandra1973

      Happy birthday! Maybe Sayaka will do something special for your birthday. 🙂

  • mobilebay

    Rather than the big “lie” of needing illegal alien help in the fields, why not put out-of-work blacks on the farms? This would lessen the invasion because the jobs were scarce and it would employ the ones who are hurt most by illegal labor. Work rather than handouts should be the aim.

    • mobilebay

      Sorry, I think I posted on the wrong article.

  • Next in the news, students from poor families will feel unfairly stigmatized when their wealthier classmates are taken on vacations in warmer climates at Christmas and spring break: snorkeling in Hawaii, fishing off the Azores or Canaries, horseback riding at a dude ranch in the Arizona-Sonora desert, etc. The school districts will eventually demand massive property tax increases in order to fund these for everyone, just so little N’DeShawntavious and LaTrine don’t feel inferior to Johnny and Jenny.

  • They taught girls in fifth and sixth grade – because they were white – after they separated us by sex. I had been breeding lizards, so I knew what the female teacher told the girls. We guys got to watch a movie about natural gas drilling.

  • LHathaway

    More than 1 million children attend public schools in NY?. I just want to know how many are white. . .. I guess only sometimes does race count and only sometimes are ‘fact checkers’ on the job.

  • evilsandmich

    That little Bunshellda ain’t but foe years old!
    That’s great! You remind of that woman in Airplane! who could speak “jive”.

  • ThomasER916

    There has never been a White Cargo Cult. On the other hands, Whites are the gods of the Cargo Cult. When the gods drop manna from heaven in great abundance the colored tribes waste, squander, fight, rape, fornicate, and murder. When the gods withhold their manna, the tribes stamp their feet, riot, rob, rape, and murder.

    The problem is not the gods, nor is it their merciful gifts of manna. The problem is the colored tribes.