As the country awaits news on whether the government shutdown will end before causing further damage to the economy, program administrators in states all over the country watch their budgets closely to see how much longer they can sustain programs without federal funding.
Last week, the Nebraska Department of Education notified schools that they may not be reimbursed for school lunches served in October. While most schools seem committed to temporarily sustaining their programs even in the absence of reimbursement, the situation could become much more tenuous if the shutdown continues to drag on.
The school lunch program helps to ensure the every kid has access to a healthy meal during the school day. Students are typically charged different rates for the lunch based on their ability to pay. In Nebraska, about 42% (or over 216,000) kids receive free or reduced price lunch.
For kids whose families are struggling with hunger, this may be the only nutritious meal they eat all day. Ensuring that kids have a healthy meal during the school day helps them be ready to learn.
When I was thinking about the possibility that the government shutdown might soon prevent our school children from eating lunch, an idea occurred to me. Maybe we shouldn’t allow our Congressional leaders to eat until they get a deal worked out. Maybe, just maybe, they will get so hungry that they’ll be forced to compromise. At the very least, it might force them to appreciate what hunger feels like and empathize with the kids whose lunches hang in the balance as they try to score political points.