School lunches – they should be free for all Worcester Public School students!

By Rosalie Tirella

I used to love scarfing down this exact same meal every Friday afternoon years ago at the old Lamartine Street School in Green Island. The tray even looks the same! Sloppy Joe’s was my second fave meal! Back then, like today, kids got milk, a veggie (most likely canned) and a dessert. The meals helped me and a lot of my Green Island pals to grow (probably a little too) big and strong. The lunch ladies were lovely! One of them – Millie – used to crochet us Lamartine kids little vests. You’d go to her, hold her hand and smile and shyly ask for one of her special vests and a week later, you had one! Pink, green, orange – the colors of  the rainbow dyed into the yarn that Millie used. All us girls wore Millie vests! Millie lived in the hood and she knew what life was like for a lot of us. She was wonderful. I can still picture her: tall and chubby, thick, no-nonsense eye glasses – quiet, sweet voice. We had other lunch ladies – one was as sharp as rusty nails. When she yelled at us kids during lunch recess, we  paid attention. But you could always go over to her and chat. Her bark was worse than her bite.

My mom was too proud to apply for the free lunch, so my sisters and I paid the quarter or whatever it cost back then for our meals. However, we were eligible for the federal program, and my mom certainly could have used the extra dollars to pay bills, etc. We lived so close to the bone!

Here’s where Boston comes in! The Boston Public Schools are part of a pilot program in which ALL BPS students can eat a free lunch every school day  – no questions asked, no cumbersome forms to fill out, no confusion, no shame, no giving out personal info. This would have been great for a family like ours headed by a strong, proud mom like Mrs. Tirella.

We say the Worcester Public Schools should follow Boston’s lead!

All kids in our public schools should be able to drink milk, eat fruit and veggies and yeah, have fun with pizza (cheese and tomato sauce is good for ya!) at no cost. No one should go hungry or feel underfed  in school! No low income or struggling family should feel stigmatized! How can a child learn if his or her stomach is growling? If he or she is weak with hunger?



Schools should embrace free-lunch programs

BOSTON PUBLIC Schools students got some good news about lunchtime last week: The school system has joined an experimental US Department of Agriculture program that provides free lunch for all students — on the federal government’s tab — regardless of whether their families can afford to pay. A high percentage of Boston students already qualify for free or deeply reduced school lunches. But many haven’t taken advantage of the program, perhaps because their parents had trouble navigating the paperwork or felt stigmatized by having to disclose their incomes. The new program joins Boston’s policy of offering universal free breakfast. And it could spare the district the difficulty of chasing hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid lunch bills; currently, schools give kids food even if their parents don’t keep up with their payments. School officials will need to take extra care to make sure crowded lunch lines move quickly and all students have time to eat. But the value of universal lunch is clear: a greater likelihood that kids will be ready to learn. …

To read entire Globe editorial, click here!




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