Simulated Chicken Feet – Don’t Take Them For Granted

legislatively speaking

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

Lena C Taylor

Recently, as I was getting ready for my day, I was listening to the local radio. The host was engaged in a lofty debate with the listeners and was getting heated. As he tried to figure out the subject, my mind was racing. Now what? Another reckless driving incident, a political scandal, another US Senate candidate dropping out of the race? I leaned in so I wouldn’t miss the next call and be able to participate in the discussion. Just as I approached, a caller defiantly declared that the mock chicken legs served when he was in elementary school were the absolute reason he attended class some days. The back and forth was about school lunch. Callers chimed in on which was better, pizza or mock chicken. As I laughed, I had to admit that the mock chicken feet were the hands down winner.

Listening to adults calling, remembering school lunch, I was reminded of the fact that a major school lunch initiative had ended this past June 30th. If you don’t have school-age children or family members attending K-12 classes statewide, you may have missed this story entirely. However, there are families who are well aware that something important and significant has just changed in their children’s school lunch program.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, schools and child care institutions were able to serve meals through the USDA National School Lunch Program’s Seamless Summer Option, which is generally only available during the summer months. Offered to help families in need of assistance while Safer at Home orders, virtual education, or social distancing protocols were in place on school lunches provided to all families to ensure children had healthy and consistent food. These meals were made available to all children, regardless of family income. Since 6 weeks ago, this program stopped.

However, if your child attends Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) or most charter and private schools, they will likely participate in the Community Eligibility program for school lunch. This allows students at these schools to receive free breakfast and lunch. Our children have benefited from this program for several years. While other families and children have not been so lucky. Many neighboring township schools use income-based eligibility criteria to determine if free or reduced-price lunch is possible. `

As a result, we have seen a number of problems arise with young people accessing a nutritious meal. Whether overdue lunch accounts result in a child being denied a lunch or being provided a cheese sandwich, we know that children have been provided lower quality meals. Last session, I co-authored the Senate companion to AB 84, to ensure that no child in a Wisconsin public school is a victim of “lunch shaming.” We are aware that these incidents have occurred in school districts, both in Wisconsin and across the country. Embarrassment includes having trays taken away while students were eating, being given a cold lunch instead of a hot one, being told to get out of the lunch line, and more.

In a nutshell, COVID-19 exposed a number of flaws, issues, and disparities in our systems. It showed that families, even those that had been financially stable, benefited from the Seamless Summer lunch program. As schools go back to charging for lunches, I pray that no child misses out on a meal due to an unpaid balance. Every youngster deserves a mock chicken leg souvenir!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.