Maybe We Should All Become Lunchroom Angels

"Lunchroom angel" Ken Thompson.
“Lunchroom angel” Ken Thompson.

On the heels of the lunchroom incident in a Utah elementary school where 40 kids were made to feel like garbage after their uneaten lunches were tossed in the trash over negative lunch account balances, a Texas man paid off 60 negative lunch account balances at a Houston elementary school.

Kenny Thompson, a school tutor, tells his local station, KPRC, he wanted to do something after hearing what happened in Utah. “I’m like, ‘Wow. I know that’s probably a situation at my school, and the school my son goes to, and the other schools I mentor at.’  So I came in and inquired about it.”

Thompson took $465 of his own money and paid off the lunch accounts for 60 children.

“These are elementary school kids…They don’t need to be worried about finances. They need to be worried about what grade they got in spelling.”

And there it is. Kids shouldn’t be sweating their lunch bill. If their parents can’t afford the bill, I have absolutely no trouble stepping in and helping out where I can and neither should you. That’s what it’s all about. Giving someone a helping hand when they’re down instead of clutching wallets tightly because, by God, I work hard for my money and I’ll be damned if I’m going to foot the bill for some freeloading elementary school kids and their lazy parents.

A week ago, I wrote a post about a Utah lunchroom incident that prompted Thompson to check in with his local elementary school. The post was also featured on Yahoo where it generated more than 1,600 comments. Someone also left a random comment on my Facebook page that really stuck with me. I think it represents the feelings of people who have concerns that the “dregs of society” or “lazy parents” are attempting to siphon the money stash they have jam-packed into their guestroom mattress. Here’s the comment:

“At what point do you become responsible for your children? Would you like to pay more taxes so that every child is guaranteed a free lunch? Are you willing to donate to pay to cover the unpaid lunch fees? Do you think school districts should cut staff so that you don’t have to be a responsible parent and either pay your kids’ lunch fees on time or send a lunch from home? Are you saying your child is so frail, both physically and emotionally that being given an alternative lunch one time (cause honey, unless you are a TOTAL mess that is all it would take to get you to man up and pay the lady!) he/she will be scarred for life? Your blog suggests that you have personal problems: like developing some common sense: to deal with before you try to fix society.”

The comment is stunning on so many levels, but the part that bothers me most is the complete disregard for the feelings of children. The lack of compassion for an elementary-age child who doesn’t yet understand the concept of rich and poor, the haves/have nots, and where he or she fits into the whole game. And yet, with one swoop of a careless hand, it all comes crashing down.

You are less than.

You are poor.

You don’t have enough.

You can’t afford.

You aren’t good enough.

This is at the child’s school, no less. The one place, next to home, that is supposed to be safe. For many children, school is their safe place.

But that sense of belonging, that sense of security, is tossed into the trash along with their lunch because of some insanely insensitive policy that causes this to happen time and time again across the country. But so many adults couldn’t care less. “Get over it,” they say in the comments. “It isn’t that big of a deal.” “I’m not using my money to pay for other people’s laziness.” You get the idea.

I don’t see it that way. I don’t see helping a child eat lunch while also avoiding embarrassment and shame as offering a handout (no matter who the parents are and what they do), I see it as my moral duty as an effing human being on planet Earth.

So what is to be done? How can we fix this? How can we, as parents, as a country, as human beings, rally around our children and make sure no child is made to feel like a lunchroom criminal ever again?

We can follow Kenny Thompson’s lead. We can set up discretionary funds that parents can choose to donate to each month to be used to line the accounts of children who need it most. And if some parents choose to take advantage of the discretionary fund, so what? It isn’t about the parent. It’s about the child and I have absolutely zero problem helping a kid out, especially if he’s stuck with parents who, for whatever reason, aren’t doing their job. If I help even one kid eat a hot lunch without worry, then it’s money well-spent.

There are children skipping lunch to avoid embarrassment, for crying out loud! If it costs me an extra $50 a month for that not to happen, I’m all for it. As Thompson said,  “When I left the building knowing that they were getting fed, they didn’t have that stress…[It] was the best money I ever spent.”

I challenge you to spend your money in a better way.


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