Calling the federal food program enabling for parents, Payson Unified School District (PUSD) board member Shirley Dye voted against participating in the free and reduced lunch program, which includes about 70 percent of the parents in the district.
“I would like to see some qualifiers ... but if you’ve ever been to 12-step, you know that this is enabling. This is enabling parents to not take on responsibility for providing food and packing lunches for their kids,” she said.
Board president Barbara Underwood explained that the federally funded program is based on financial need.
“We don’t get to set the criteria,” said PUSD Business Manager Kathie Manning. “It’s a federal program that we either participate in (or not).”
District Superintendent Greg Wyman said the same criteria apply in Payson, or New York or Florida.
The federal government offers the Free and Reduced Lunch Program to families with incomes at or near the poverty line. A single mother with two children can qualify for free lunches with an annual salary of $19,790 or $381 per week. For reduced price meals, the family of three qualifies with an annual salary below $36,612 or $705 weekly.
Manning said each year votes on renewing the food service contract.
“This is the same permanent food services agreement that is presented to the board annually,” she said. “It’s a requirement so we can participate in the food program each year.”
Dye said she would rather see counseling for parents.
“However ... some of these people out in the community, that are having children that the parents are really struggling or if the parents are just absentee brain-wise parents because they are on drugs or whatever ... these people should be getting some community group together, or some church group together that would help to counsel them to get them out of that status,” she said.
Underwood said community members have also donated time and money to put together food bags for students each weekend. “The community is stepping up above and beyond,” Underwood said.
Dye thought a better answer would be to have parents get “involved in the great American work ethic” and stop feeling entitled.
“I think a handout requires some sort of responsibility from the parent — whether it’s helping them to be educated ... make sure they are going to AA meetings if they’re going to receive things.
“This is a bad program that started out at the federal government, which may have meant well to begin with, has gotten out of control — you are raising a bunch of parents and children that are feeling entitled,” she said.