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AP Sobs: Poor Can’t Afford School Lunch

From an outraged Associated Press:

Danessa Vigil, 7, right, and her sister, Mya Williams, 6, wait for the school bus at their aunt’s home in Rio Rancho, N.M., on Friday, Jan. 30, 2009.

No more lunch bills: Schools go after deadbeats

By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press Writer – Wed Feb 25

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A cold cheese sandwich, fruit and a milk carton might not seem like much of a meal — but that’s what’s on the menu for students in New Mexico’s largest school district without their lunch money.

Faced with mounting unpaid lunch charges in the economic downturn, Albuquerque Public Schools last month instituted a "cheese sandwich policy," serving the alternative meals to children whose parents are supposed to be able to pay for some or all of their regular meals but fail to pick up the tab…

Critics argue the cold meals are a form of punishment for children whose parents can’t afford to pay. Parents who qualify for free meals are not affected…

Some Albuquerque parents have tearfully pleaded with school board members to stop singling out their children because they’re poor, while others have flooded talk radio shows thanking the district for imposing a policy that commands parental responsibility.

Second-grader Danessa Vigil said she will never eat sliced cheese again. She had to eat cheese sandwiches because her mother couldn’t afford to give her lunch money while her application for free lunch was being processed.

"Every time I eat it, it makes me feel like I want to throw up," the 7-year-old said.

Her mother, Darlene Vigil, said there are days she can’t spare lunch money for her two daughters.

"Some parents don’t have even $1 sometimes," the 27-year-old single mother said. "If they do, it’s for something else, like milk at home. There are some families that just don’t have it and that’s the reason they’re not paying."

Albuquerque Public Schools students receive a cheese sandwich in lieu of a hot meal if they have exceeded a set amount of meals charged to their account, ranging from two at high schools to 10 at elementary schools. The schools’ Web site warns: "Once the charging limit is met, students will be offered an alternate meal consisting of a cheese sandwich and a beverage."

The School Nutrition Association recently surveyed nutrition directors from 38 states and found more than half of school districts have seen an increase in the number of students charging meals, while 79 percent saw an increase in the number of free lunches served over the last year.

In New Mexico, nearly 204,000 low-income students — about three-fifths of public school students — received free or reduced-price lunches at the beginning of the school year, according to the state Public Education Department…

In Albuquerque, unpaid lunch charges hovered around $55,000 in 2006. That jumped to $130,000 at the end of the 2007-08 school year. It was $140,000 through the first five months of this school year.

Charges were on pace to reach $300,000 by the end of the year. Mary Swift, director of Albuquerque’s food and nutrition services, said her department had no way to absorb that debt as it had in the past.

"We can’t use any federal lunch program money to pay what they call bad debt. It has to come out of the general budget and of course that takes it from some other department," Swift said.

With the new policy, the school district has collected just over $50,000 from parents since the beginning of the year. It also identified 2,000 students eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches, and more children in the lunch program means more federal dollars for the district.

School officials said the policy was under consideration for some time and parents were notified last fall. Families with unpaid charges are reminded with an automated phone call each night and notes are sent home with children once a week.

Swift added that the cheese sandwiches — about 80 of the 46,000 meals the district serves daily — can be considered a "courtesy meal," rather than an alternate meal.

Some districts, she noted, don’t allow children without money to eat anything…

These kids are lucky. In our day we got dirt sandwiches.

And we had to pay for them.

But do note this detail buried near the end of the article.

With the new policy, the school district has collected just over $50,000 from parents since the beginning of the year. It also identified 2,000 students eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches, and more children in the lunch program means more federal dollars for the district.

This is of course what this harsh new program is all about.

Getting more federal money.

This article was posted by Steve on Thursday, February 26th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

71 Responses to “AP Sobs: Poor Can’t Afford School Lunch”

  1. curvyred says:

    Loaf of bread: $1.25

    Jar of peanut butter: $2-3

    Bag of apples: $3.00

    Lunch for two for more than a week, wa la!

    The parents could still pack a lunch for less. If they don’t want their children to eat “cheese slice sandwiches”

    • sheehanjihad says:

      X-Box and games $500.00, Cell phone, $120.00, Cable TV, $150.00, Laptop/Internet, $90.00, 72″ Plasma HDTV, $3600.00, Stereo/DVD/CD system, $2500.00, Beer, $100.00, Weed, $250.00, “Spendin Crinkle” $300.00, Rent, (subsidised), Utilities, (subsidised), Health Care, (subsidised) Clothing, (charitable donations)

      Food, $9.57……..yeah, they cant make ends meet, so something has to give!!

    • caligirl9 says:

      One of the local high schools and community college districts in this area puts on a science camp for incoming seniors, all of the students have been labeled “at risk” due to truancy or gang affiliation. Up until this past summer, there were no anglo or black kids taking part in the camp.

      I was told at least 75 percent of those students were on the free meal program, so in order to hold the camp, those students needed two meals a day. They were also being given $50 upon completion of the camp.

      On the last day, the high school and college wanted photos taken, which I did. Imagine my surprise when those 20 students, each of whom had been given a free breakfast and lunch that week, all whipped out tricked-out cell phones and asked me to take a photo of the group.

      I’d say priorities are a bit screwed up.

  2. Barbie says:

    Wow – back in my day a cheese sandwich would be like a gourmet meal.

    • Confucius says:

      I know!

      What’s wrong with a cheese sandwich? I still eat them today.

      They’re particularly delicious with tomato soup. (And not the kind the school cafeteria used to serve. You know . . . ketcup + water . . . ugh.)

  3. Colonel1961 says:

    It’s always a sob story. A few months ago, our local paper ran story about a woman who was beleaguered that the county was ending her housing subsidy payment. The photograph accompanying the story showed her with a cup of Starbucks coffee on her counter. Nuts!!

    She can spend five bucks (?) for a cup of coffee, but wants to whine that her $75.00 per month ‘entitlement’ is being reduced. Hey, here’s a novel idea: quit spending ‘your’ money on that serious gourmet shit* and start drinking some freeze-dried Taster’s Choice.

    *Don’t ‘Jimme’ me, Jules. What’s on my mind at this moment is not the coffee in my kitchen…

  4. 1sttofight says:

    Geees these parents are dumb.
    Sign your bastard (single mom) kids up for the free lunch.
    Lie on the application(no one will ever check) and be done with it.
    After all, We now live in the Unicorn, Free Money Age.

  5. grits says:

    Sounds like a balanced lunch to me.

    My kids have been brown-bagging since kindergarten: a collective 15 years of pb&j.

    I thought the biggest health problem for America’s school children was obesity.

    “Every time I eat it, it makes me feel like I want to throw up,” the 7-year-old said.

    While I’m not surprised a 7-year-old is unappreciative these days, her attitude clearly demonstrates the absence of hunger. If she was truly hungry, she’d be glad for the food.

  6. Colonel1961 says:

    When is GoBama gonna start paying for arugula salads for the poor children? Cheese sandwiches = cruel and unusual punishment. How about an all-organic omelet bar? Free-range, evil rich-people fricassee? Petrossian caviar?

  7. proreason says:

    two words. morbidly obese.

    nuff said

  8. BannedbytheTaliban says:

    Anyone notice the sisters have different last names. Could it be that the irresponsible mother who has had children by multiple fathers, most likely out of wedlock, is the one to blame. Of course not, how silly of me.

  9. curvyred says:

    So these neglectful parents are sending their children to school without:

    A) a lunch

    B) or the means to pay for one?

    Where is social services when you need them. sure seems like neglect to me. Not to mention humiliation of the child by being forced to accept a “cheese-slice ” sandwich.

    • Colonel1961 says:

      Gee, curvyred, are you one of those pro-responsibility hate-mongers? Is this becoming a hate site? It’s your responsibility to make those kids’ lunches – or at least to pay for them. C’mon – get with the program! We’re all in this together! Taxes are patriotic! Whee!!

      p.s. I like cheese!

    • curvyred says:

      Why yes I am!!!

      And what praytell happens to the children in the summertime – who gives them breakfast and lunch then?

    • 1sttofight says:

      Parents are responsible for their childrens welfare now???
      What is the world coming to.

  10. dulcimergrl says:

    This delinquent lunch bill stuff is nothing new. I’ve put two kids through school, and I’ve noticed the lunch policies have gotten stricter and stricter over the years. We pay money into a lunch for son now, and when the balance gets too low to cover it, he gets NO LUNCH AT ALL. Getting a cheese sandwich would be a bonus. They do notify us when the balance is getting low, so it’s our own responsibility to make sure we get more money into the account. And although we are about to go off a cliff financially, we make way too much money to qualify for the free lunch program.

    I can’t believe that people don’t have the funds to furnish their kids with at least a little something for lunch if they can’t pay the bill. But like you said, the whole object of this exercise is to get more federal money for free lunches.

    • jobeth says:

      “I can’t believe that people don’t have the funds to furnish their kids with at least a little something for lunch “

      You must have forgotten about the beer and cigarettes Mom and Dad must have. Or the weed…or the meth…or the…etc etc.

      I can’t tell you how many times I watch someone on food stamps follow up by paying cash for their beer and cigarettes…and I’ll bet their kids are on free lunch.

    • 1sttofight says:

      Why should they pay lunch monery for their kids when they don’t have to make their house payment?

      Apparently being a leech on society is the way to go in the future.

    • dulcimergrl says:

      I used to work in a grocery store in the ’70s, and there were plenty of folks on food stamps who bought the most expensive food you can imagine with their ‘stamps’, plus their booze and cigs with cash. There were many who tried to pay for the booze and cigs with their food stamps and got mad when they couldn’t. So this kind of crap has been going on for a very long time…

    • catie says:

      dulcimergrl, I worked at a grocery store from 1980-82 while I was in high school and saw the same thing. One time some cow brought up a sheet cake that read “Bon Voyage Scott” and had a boat on it. She got out her food stamps and the cashier said she couldn’t use them for that. The cow made a fuss and the manager came over. He said that if it’s food, unfortunately they had to take them. Sharon said she wasn’t ringing it up as both her and her husband worked two jobs so Dave the manager rang up the sale and turned to me to carry it out. I told him that I had help pay for that cake and I was thinking about taking a big bite out of it so he had better take it out himself which he did. When he came back in he said we couldn’t treat the poor and downtrodden like that ever again or he would fire us. The next week she came in buying a strip of fillet and when my co-worker Ray saw her pay for it with food stamps he put his finger through the plastic. Now I see where they’re giving them debit cards so their self-esteem isn’t harmed. What a joke.
      As for these two bastard children, they need to understand that others are paying for their cheese sandwich or perhaps they can get their mom to get a J O B or find out who their old man is and go after him. Mom needs to get her tubes tied and quit making babies. What a bunch of losers-the entire family including the kids.

    • dulcimergrl says:

      I wonder what those two kids would think of the lard-and-sugar sandwiches my mother used to eat during the Depression?

    • 1sttofight says:

      Don’t know about the lard and sugar sandwiches, but during the 60’s when I was growing up we ate a lot of butter and sugar sandwices/biscites. We also had to go to the outhouse(100 feet or so) to take a dump.

    • jobeth says:

      Catie and duci

      I was standing in line one day and a man bought THREE big grocery bags (the paper kind) completely full of ice cream and about 15 2 litter bottles of soda….for a birthday party!!!!!!!!!

      I was spitting mad. He was just happily going on about the “birthday party” he was giving. How dang big WAS that party!

      And you guessed it….He paid with food stamps!

      Personally I would rather see them be able to buy soap and toilet paper and cut the junk food!

  11. Right of the People says:

    I’m about to lose my lunch!


  12. 12 Gauge Rage says:

    I’m surprised that this stuff even made the news. Because my life’s experience has shown that the subject of school lunches only pops up when a republican is sitting in the White House. The same situation for the homeless. Where do the homeless go when a democrat is in the Oval Office? Shame on us damned evil republicans!

    ‘The inherent evil of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.’

    Winston Churchill

  13. canary says:

    new Expensive refriderator in pic. Sounds like child protection services should pay a visit and see if it has food in that expensive refridgerator. These girls look old enough to fix their own lunches, and I bet they won’t eat their school vegatables either.

    • proreason says:

      good catch.

      The kitchen isn’t exactly a hovel either.

    • 1sttofight says:

      Don’t know about girls, we had boys. But i do see your point. The boys could live off the land in the woods for days at a time but could not survive at home with a stocked pantry without their mom.

    • jobeth says:

      Looking over the shoulder of the girl facing the camera, do my eyes spy….bananas? I also noticed they seem to have enough money to own a stainless fridge….with and ice maker… I mean you gotta have that.

  14. VMAN says:

    At the local farmers market you could buy enough food for $10.00 to feed a kid lunch for a month maybe two.

  15. sheehanjihad says:

    The whole idea is not whether these parents can or will feed their kids…(notice, they arent exactly emaciated, are they?) The idea is to feed them for FREE! Why give up important things like drugs and alcohol and clubbin, if you can get the working folks to pay for it. Remember, in the current administration, these kids have a RIGHT to free food….and we are violating their rights if we dont pay for it to make sure they get it. When a person is truly hungry, they dont bitch about a slice of cheese…..they eat anything they can get their hands on.

  16. Bronson says:

    This is a good way to teach students the most important life lesson at a very early age:


  17. Gila Monster says:

    In New Mexico, nearly 204,000 low-income students — about three-fifths of public school students — received free or reduced-price lunches at the beginning of the school year, according to the state Public Education Department…

    At first I thought I read that paragraph incorrectly but it does say that 60% of the students in NM qualify for free or reduced school lunches.
    I find that truly hard to swallow, … 60%..??

    Having lived in NM for 7 years, I realize that it’s not exactly an economic powerhouse but am I missing something here?

    • JohnMG says:

      I think the key is that school districts receive greater funding and that funding is tied to the number of students in need. It is the school who determines if the need exists.

      Kinda like congress–you know, getting to vote themselves a raise.

    • proreason says:

      It’s worse than that.

      It’s an illustration of how government perpetuates itself.

      There isn’t even a hint of efficiency. No government employee ever advanced by limiting his or her empire.

      Cost cutting……HA HA HA HA HA

    • Gila Monster says:

      You’re right of course JohnMG but it really is sad. The government induced cradle to grave syndrome is spreading like wildfire.

    • JohnMG says:

      These kids aren’t even aware of what’s going on, GM. They see it all around themselves and assume that such programs are the norm. Unfortunately, the more participants, the more it IS the norm. How could they suffer any blow to a self-esteem that doesn’t exist. They don’t know that they should be embarassed, or that their parent’s are deadbeats, because everyone else’s parents seem to be deadbeats too.

      “Isn’t everybody a deadbeat? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to grow up and become? I don’t want the train to leave the station without me being aboard.”

  18. U NO HOO says:

    A la Ann Coulter, become Catholic and get your lenten meals free.

    That’s all.

  19. U NO HOO says:

    Did pierced ears make anyone throw up and can’t the earrings be pawned for filet mignon?

    I’m starting to get mad.

  20. U NO HOO says:

    Stop me before I make sense again, but, can’t an aunt make lunch for her nieces?

    My aunts would have never let me eat something I didn’t like, unless it was good for me.

    I used to go home for lunch.

    Cheese, apple, milk, I can’t picture the All Holy Food Pyramid, not that I ever understood it.

  21. canary says:

    A hot meal. beans and cornbread. Too much WIC cheese and they are sick of it? If their mom makes it sound like they are starving, then they’d appreciate cheese and bread. And I’m sure many kids offer their vegetables and stuff they don’t like to them. Kids trade food all the time. Either the news is making fun of them, or the news is letting people really in need go unnoticed.

    • jobeth says:

      Letting the kids go hungry a few meals always straightened out my kids when the got too picky. LOL

      Aways works. And never hurts’em’

    • caligirl9 says:

      canary, that was my favorite lunch menu. It was always Wednesday’s lunch for eight years of primary and elementary/junior high school. Chili beans and cornbread and milk. Crumble the cornbread into the beans. Add milk for consistency’s sake. Scarf down. Disgustingly dee-licious!

      (Caligirl is now looking for a cornbread mix …)

    • Colonel1961 says:

      Beans and cornbread ain’t no meal – it’s haute cuisine! I’m trying to find the ‘Martha White’ too, cali…

  22. brad says:

    Do you ever notice that when it comes to programs that affect blacks and hispanics, they usually show white kids, or very white-looking kids? They never parade out the 80% of the scrubby looking black kids living at the Salvation Army do they?

    And why are tax payers paying for free breakfast and lunch at schools anyway? Stop propping up black families with give-aways every where. You don’t pay, you don’t eat, and then those kids learn a valuable lesson that there is no free lunch.

    I remember black families coming into my not-for-profit organization and constantly asking or demanding for a fee waiver for whatever it was they wanted them or their kids to do. It’s like they just expect it.

  23. proreason says:

    They should move to Massachusetts and go on unemployment. Unemployment benefits there are 48K annually.

  24. MinnesotaRush says:

    Whatha!!! The gov’t musta gotta helluva deal on all that cheese they been handin’ out for decades!?!?!? Will they never run out?!?!?!?

    And all this goes to show is that .. beggars CAN be choosers ….

  25. Euryale says:

    Why don’t they get the lunch money from the kids’ fathers? Oh wait…

  26. Colonel1961 says:


    Yes, preparing for the Blizzard of ’09 myself. Tried to watch a little golf this afternoon, but got tired of the inane weather alerts running across the bottom of the screen… No white bread or milk left at Star Market!

  27. marya says:

    Let the little bastards starve.

    • Colonel1961 says:

      That’s harsh. It’s not the children’s fault. Let’s end the incentives that reward their parent’s irresponsible behavior, rather than rewarding it with never-ending giveaway programs…

  28. caligirl9 says:

    Colonel, I suppose you are correct. It’s better to feed kids at school and know where every dime goes versus sending the funds home to those wackjob parents so they can buy their beer and Doritos. It sure is hard to stomach when their parents drop them off at school in a late-model automobile wearing pretty nice clothing (unless they are attending a school in gangstaland and have to wear neutral-colored school uniforms) and $150 tennis shoes.

    It’s just hard to know who really needs reduced fee/free meals … and how many are just taking advantage of the system.

  29. Squito says:

    “Second-grader Danessa Vigil said she will never eat sliced cheese again. She had to eat cheese sandwiches because her mother couldn’t afford to give her lunch money while her application for free lunch was being processed.”

    Boo-frickity-hoo. I know everyone’s said it, but gimme a break: if the kid was hungry, she’d appreciate the cheese sandwich. I know I did, along with the milk and apple my brother and I got with our lunches in grade school after my mom and dad went through a nasty divorce.

    I used to think Food Stamps were okay (help the poor and hungry, all that jazz), but after I started work as a cashier, the only “food” I see people purchase are donuts, ice cream, candy, and other edible garbage. Just today, a woman barely two or three years older than me (maybe 21?) used her EBT card to buy Marlboros and another one used his for condoms (I was practically shaking with anger)! I’m becoming more and more of a misanthrope because of these f###ing welfare vultures. What right do these monsters have to my or anyone’s taxes? (explodes into expletives)

    By the way, I’m extremely glad I found this site. (Signed up a while ago, but haven’t had a chance to really get on the Web between school, work, and college plans.) It’s a bit disconcerting around where I live where people are bearing their Obama hats/shirts/bumper stickers with pride and only a few people I know outside of family have a clue about current events. (My own Economics teacher thinks the “Stimulus” bill is a good thing–which is why I agree with Ann Coulter about public schools. Haha.)

    • jobeth says:

      Welcome Squito!

      I see your problem tho…You are productive! That will never do! Just kidding LOL.

      Glad to see more young people that see the light early. You give us hope for the future generations.

      I am raising my granddaughter with correct values. She has a mild learning disability but she gets it. She understands responsibiliy and commitment. Makes you really wonder about so called “intellectuals” on the left.

      Glad I’m not alone. You apparently were well reared.

    • Squito says:

      Thank you, Jobeth!

      “Glad to see more young people that see the light early. You give us hope for the future generations.”

      Here’s hoping. Like what most of what mainstream media says, not every teenager voted (or hoped to vote–I turned eighteen on the twenty-first of January–sour irony there) for Obama. Have to admit it’s not hard to believe when my AP European History book practically SYMPATHIZED with socialist ideals (snort). In it, if you read between the lines and pay attention to adjectives, LIBERALS= good guys, CONSERVATIVES= grungy, mean, racist men. Good ole brainwashing right there. (roll eyes)

      “I am raising my granddaughter with correct values. She has a mild learning disability but she gets it. She understands responsibiliy and commitment. Makes you really wonder about so called “intellectuals” on the left.”

      As one of my co-workers sometimes jokes: “Calculus may look good on your school record, but common sense and some values gets you at least minimum wage. See which one feeds ya faster.”

  30. Al Morone says:

    You people can say what you want, but I’m all for public funding of school lunch programs.
    Allowing kids to starve just to save some tax dollars is wrong.

    • Squito says:

      Why should people who EARN their money pay for these brats? Since when should responsibility for children fall into the hands of people outside the family?

      Forcing people to pay for something that isn’t their fault (in this situation, a woman who screwed two random guys and ended up prego without a decent job to support her spawn and herself) is also wrong.

      It’s about as ridiculous as those people who get disability checks for being alcoholics and drug addicts.

    • Colonel1961 says:

      I see your point, Squito, as I do with caligirl about the Gangsta clothes, et al., but children are innocent at their ages. Beat the ever livin’ crap out of the parents if you want (I’ll go first!), but let’s go a little easy on the kids, huh?

      And, Squito, I also agree with your point about the cheese sandwiches – I ate what was put before me. And I gave thanks for it – whether I wanted to or not! lol

    • Liberals Demise says:

      Al……..then “I” suggest that “YOU” open “YOUR” wallet and let the bottom feeders pick and choose from your coffers. There are plenty of people here that are sick up and fed of people like “YOU” that have no problem reaching for “OUR” wallets to back irresponsible behavior such as spitting out kids with NO way of taking care of them!! Why is it MY problem that these fatherless brats don’t like BubbaGump cheese? If the mother was REALLY upset….. she would go out and do something herself to feed these illegits of society. Believe me……if the gubbamint didn’t give a handout……this fine example of motherhood would be out doing for her kids on her own, as it should be!!

    • Squito says:

      All right, Colonel, I understand, but still, “If I eat another cheese sandwich, I’ll puke” girl doesn’t seem to be starving (she could also remedy her displeasure if her mom coped up cash for Dill pickles–that and cheese is YUM). She is young though, I guess. Too bad she’ll probably end up spoiled like a lot of little chickadees… (sigh)

  31. jrmcdonald says:

    “Critics argue the cold meals are a form of punishment for children whose parents can’t afford to pay. Parents who qualify for free meals are not affected…”

    Reward the parasite, punish the working poor.

    • proreason says:

      Yours may be the key point of the whole discussion, jr.

      The incentives all seem to point people toward giving up instead of working their way out.

  32. jrmcdonald says:

    Thank you proreason; love the bird :)

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