YONKERS, NY — October 11, 2017 —There’s a problem with school lunches. Some 94 families have not filled out the paperwork to determine if their child is eligible for a free or paid lunch. The School Administrators, doing the right thing, have been giving these children the same lunch as all other students. Obviously there is a resulting cost. While school administrators are not completely sure why the parents haven’t filled out the forms, there are some plausible suppositions. Some of these families may be undocumented and therefore fearful of deportation. Others may have language problems and others may be afraid they won’t be able to pay.
Some things are clear. A report was cited at a City Council Committee Meeting that demonstrates that 79% of public school students are from economically disadvantaged homes. That school lunch may be their most substantial meal of the day. For the sake of the health and wellbeing of those children, that lunch must not be taken away.
At the same City Council Committee meeting current Council President, Liam McLaughlin, suggested that denying lunch to these students or taking their parents to small claims court may be a useful tool to get their parents to fill out the forms and pay. While he did express being uncomfortable with that tactic, it was irresponsible and callous to suggest it could be effective or even worthy of discussion. It should be common sense that a child’s hunger should never be used as a bargaining chip. The Office of City Council President is serious and demands its occupant be professional and provide compassionate leadership for all Yonkers citizens. Liam McLaughlin has failed to meet the requirements of his office.
While there is a financial cost of providing these lunches, we also must acknowledge the health, wellbeing, and educational consequences of not giving these children a meal they need. Why should our schools knowingly let children go hungry? That is never the answer and should never be part of the discussion.
I’m not suggesting that there is a simple solution to this problem. Words, especially from elected officials, have consequences. As City Council President I would never consider, let alone say something out loud, that could jeopardize the health and welfare of any of our children.
Click onto the above hyperlink and go to the 47th minute mark to see and hear Liam McLaughlin make the suggestion noted in Mike Khader’s op-ed
Mike Khader is the endorsed Democratic candidate for Yonkers City Council President.