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Waukesha School Board Reverses Decision to Deprive Children of School Nutrition.

09/03/2021

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended the Seamless Summer option during the current COVID pandemic eliminating payments and allowing meals to be served in classrooms or outside to avoid congregating in lunchrooms.  Alone among 408 Wisconsin public school districts, the Waukesha Board voted to canceled the free program in June.  Joseph Como, President of the Board, stated “I would say this is part of normalization.”  Board member Karen Rhanicek said the free program “made it easy for families to become spoiled”. 

 

For the edification of Como, Waukesha and for that matter Wisconsin is not going back to “normal”.  Waukesha County has recorded a COVID rate of 13,718 cases per 100,000 with 169 fatalities per 100,000 of the county population.  This compares with 12,352 cases per 100,000 and 143 fatalities per 100,000 for the entire state of Wisconsin.  In comparing the figures it must be remembered that Milwaukee County, the densest populated in the state, has an extremely high level of COVID cases and fatalities.  Stating that Waukesha, or Wisconsin, or for that matter the U.S. is back to normal is an eggregious denial of reality.  To state that a free program providing nutrition for children encourages dependence on government largesse is cynical and depraved.

 

An administrator with the State Department of Public Instruction School Nutrition Team has advised the district to reconsider noting that the hunger rate in Waukesha County increased from nine percent in 2019 to 13 percent in 2020 during COVID.

 

The Board apparently was concerned over discrimination against low income families that would be required to complete forms for their children to participate in the program.  Surely this should be up to the parents to decide whether to take advantage of a USDA feeding program for their children.  The Board should not be presuming the desires of families since it is generally considered among conservatives that parental choice takes precedence over issues such as health, and education.

 

At the August Board meeting the decision was reservsed by a 5 to 4 vote, with the District continuing to participate in the Federal program. This was based on public opposition to the June decision. Board member Greg Deets quoted in the Waukesha Daily Freeman stated “The truth is that many of our students are hungry through the school day and we have the ability to do something about that” He added “These are stressful times and it is well known that hunger directly impacts our students’ behavior and their ability to learn”

 

It is indeed unfortunate that four elected officials of a school board saw fit to deprive students for whom they are responsible, of adequate available nutrition funded by the Federal government. If he were alive, Charles Dickens would have been inspired by the callous indifference and twisted logic expressed by these members of the Board.