Skip to main content

tv   Ethical Perspectives on the News  ABC  November 27, 2016 5:30am-6:00am CST

5:30 am
air date 11-27- 2016 school lunch policies speaker 1: ethical perspectives on the news is produced by the inter- religious council of linn county, which is solely responsible for its content. the views and opinions expressed on this program do not necessarily reflect those of the staff and management of kcrg-tv9. heather hayes: good morning and welcome to ethical perspectives on the news. i'm heather hayes, pastor at first presbyterian church here in cedar rapids, and i will be your moderator for this morning's program. now i'm going to date myself a little here, but i grew up in cedar rapids and i remember years ago the little paper tickets that i would receive as part of the lunch program, so many punches
5:31 am
earliest memories are heading down into the basement of kenwood elementary school and hearing that click, click, click as my ticket was punched before you were heading into the lunchroom. nowadays things have changed. my daughters have ids with a magnetic strip on the back that allows for them to debit their accounts much like you would a debit card, and i can write a check for any as well as getting online and making deposits. the times, they sure are a changing. but one thing hasn't changed, and that is the need to deal with the problems that sometimes arise. back in the days with those little lunch tickets, sometimes they would get lost or destroyed or sometimes even taken away. nowadays you have a
5:32 am
swipe their card and find out that their balance is zero. today's panel will be talking about school lunch policy and disagreement s as to what should be done when that lunch account's balance goes to zero. with me on today's panel is dr. brandi janssen, clinical assistant professor at the university of iowa, and director of iowa center for agricultural safety and health. welcome brandi. brandi janssen: thank brandi is todd dorman, columnist for the gazette, and author of an article which created quite a stir around school lunches. also next to todd is lynda waddington, also a columnist for the gazette, who has been writing, among other things, about iowa school lunch policies for a number of months. let's begin maybe as we start of with describing how some of the policy on lunch account balances stand now in the cedar rapids area. that would be for the cedar
5:33 am
district and the marion district. do any of you want to jump in as to the policies you know of in existence today? lynda w: i can start. each school district is allowed to set their own policy. they are not allowed to run a deficit with the school lunch program, so any school at the end of the year that does have a deficit with that program, they have to make it up out of the general fund. heather hayes: okay. lynda w: wha h cracking down because their money is tight. they don't want to pull money out of the general fund to cover the school lunch program. some school districts feed children whatever. some school districts have put different age groups of kids into different categories. for instance, elementary school students always get fed something. middle school students may be
5:34 am
high school students, the minute they hit zero it's over. you're not having lunch. middle school students generally will also get an alternate meal, even when their lunch account goes into deficit. that would be your sunbutter, which is the new peanut butter in this allergy world. in cedar rapids they have the last policy that i talked about, so elementary and middle can have fed. the high school students, once you hit the cutoff point you simply don't have lunch. that sparked across the state of iowa different parent groups, different teachers groups in setting up what they're calling community meal accounts to make sure that kids in those schools are fed. heather hayes: are you aware of how parents are informed about when those account balances go lower or get close, or is it just a matter of the kid goes up there,
5:35 am
lynda w: no. the school districts are trying to be more communicative with the parents, so emails, text messages, whatever they have at their disposal they are using to try to keep parents informed. heather hayes: okay. todd, can you briefly describe your experience, your family's experience with the low account balance for those who are listening this morning who may not have read your column in the gazette? todd dorman: yeah. we have a fami linn-mar. we have a middle school student and a high school student, and at linn-mar middle school students are allowed to go $15 over their account, so they do get some leeway. high school students aren't. what happened at the end of september is my wife had budgeted for the month. the middle schooler had gone over budget. she had gotten an email notice saying that the account was negative.
5:36 am
on. she's a working mother. she's got lots of things to do. i should probably help out more. it was one of the things that just fell by the wayside. she didn't re- charge the account, so on the following monday when my daughter went to get lunch, she went with her tray of lunch, she went to pay for it. it was a negative balance, and at linn-mar what happens then is the student is told they can't have lunch. their lunch is dumped, so that was sort of vaguely aware of the policy, but i wasn't ... we weren't aware that the lunch was just summarily dumped, which i wrote a colum basically arguing that i thought that that was sort of wasteful and also argued that because this was a parental mistake and not a student mistake i wasn't sure that was the right way to approach the problem. then i proceeded to get a lot of parenting advice from readers, so we can maybe get into that later, but it's a policy that i
5:37 am
districts are adhering to, but not all. lots of districts do give high school students even some leeway with a few meals or $15 or $25. linn- mar's account deficit at the end of last year was $8,000, which within the scope of a $2,000,000 or $3,000,000 nutrition program didn't seem like to me at least the sort of deficit or the sort of problem that necessitated that kind of abrupt sort of t for the student not getting lunch and having it dumped and going through sort of the embarrassment of that. heather hayes: you started touching ... i was going to say that doesn't sound like ... i know my daughters in that kind of ... especially freshman, sophomore, trying to make their way through high school, they'd be oh, my gosh, i can't believe this is happening to me. everybody knows. slink back to the table
5:38 am
an ideal situation for them, and i'm sure it's not an ideal situation for the school. let's talk a little bit about some of the downsides of this policy, and you've already sort of mentioned some of them. anyone want to hop in on all that? lynda w: i think the biggest thing is just if we have students who are going to school and those studens are not learning. that's the biggest downside that there is. we can have the best teachers, we can have the best computers, we can have the most incredible facilities, the best textbooks, but if those students are hungry to a point where they can't concentrate all of that is for naught, so i think that's the biggest downside to this policy. we should have well-fed students who are ready to learn. todd dorman: well, and there's sort of a closed customer base. i mean my daughter didn't ... there wasn't
5:39 am
school with her card or not have lunch. was it a huge deal for her? i think she's a pretty resilient kid. she understood what happened, but my point is that this is a situation where it seems to me there just has to be a more appropriate way to sort of drive home the fact to parents that they need to pay these bills other than sort of not serving their children lunch and dumping perfectly good food. i i wrote is i don't understand what's being saved. she had a $1.92 account deficit and so then they dumped like $4.00 worth of food, and i'm not sure how that's economically ... that that's a good business model. heather hayes: okay. now let's move on to some of the challenges that districts face. brandi, could you speak to any of those issues? brandi janssen: i think some.
5:40 am
experience working with nutrition directors has come from implementing farm to school programs and sort of thinking about fresh foods in the lunch context. what i've learned in working with food service directors is just the enormous number of constraints that they face. most food service programs are separate from the general operating budgets of the districts, these sor their own businesses, and they often have to advocate for themselves for school districts at the school board level. there are lots of firms that could take over a school district's food service program and most food service directors who manage those would prefer for that not to happen, because they would like to keep their place of employment. they're often having to prove that ... their job is not to be profitable, but they also ... as pointed out, they also can't really show a loss, so i'm sympathetic that even in a relatively small deficit that they want to sort
5:41 am
think that's kind of what our focus is today. certainly even small deficits can look sort of as to be a major issue to a school district, and that is in addition to all of the big requirements that they have to fulfill, the calorie requirements with the new healthy hunger-free kids act now. when you're serving vegetables, you're serving sort of ... you have to make sure that you serve an orange vegetable and not too many white vegetables, so they're juggling an awful lot of things, and often in complicated trucked around. not every school maybe has a production kitchen, so in the case of a deficit can they take cash to make up for it? not always, because sometimes they're bringing food in and just a staff person with a computer to enter their number in. there are really complicated systems, and i think that was one of the challenges, was trying to find a policy that works that isn't unfair to kids, but to make sure that the system remains viable. heather hayes: todd, you already mentioned you spoke
5:42 am
$8,000 deficit, and i think lynda, in a different column you had written that you were talking in iowa city it was around $35,000. lynda w: yeah. i think that was last year or the year before. heather hayes: that was last year's? okay, or the year before? are you aware of ways other than what seems that the cedar rapids area school districts have similar policies, differing amounts of how low an account can go or not go? are you aware of different have handled this across iowa? lynda w: as far as like- heather hayes: as far as trying to balance the budget, balance the school budget, their lunch budget? lynda w: my kids go to school in marion, which linn-mar and marion kind of split cedar rapids and marion in
5:43 am
marion. my kids get fed. in our district, i think it came down to that commitment and that priority that we were going to take care of these kids and that we weren't going to shame them for something honestly they really have no control over. the kids ... for those who wonder, the kids really do see it as shaming. this peanut butter or sunbutter or cheese sandwich or whatever, it is the sandwich of shame when they talk about this happening to sandwich of shame, so you're lunch account was in the red and everyone knows it. i guess for an adult that maybe doesn't sound like a big deal, but for a kid when you're going with peer pressure and you're kind of at that point in your life, it really is a big deal. todd dorman: you know my problem isn't really with the people that have to carry out this policy, the people working in the lunchroom,
5:44 am
really with the policymakers, especially the elected school board members. i mean what i found in linn- mar as i look through meeting minutes and things was that this policy was among 20 policy changes lumped together with no explanation on a school board agenda. according to the meeting minutes, it wasn't ... a couple of those policies were the school board, but not that policy. this change, there wasn't really much opportunity given for much parent input. it was passed without discussion, part of a long list of things they passed on a single night. the minutes aren't posted online until they've been approved at the next meeting, so by the time anyone would have known about it it had already been approved twice and was a done deal. now they did inform parents after the fact before the school year that this policy was in place, but my argument is why not ... why
5:45 am
members of the community a chance to sort of weigh in on the possibility of figuring out something other than dumping a kid's lunch? heather hayes: uh-huh . to go a little bit further with ... it seems to me there could be two different scenarios in why a lunch account goes into red. one would be like for example my children, they have had an issue with that at one point in time and i will never live that down. that was completely parental preparing for this and talking with some others in the community, one of the concerns that was brought up was that there are very ... there are individuals in the school district who get free lunches or reduced lunches, but there is always that little ... that
5:46 am
of that range who may really have a financial struggle. if a middle schooler doubles up a few days, all of a sudden they are not able to cover those financial costs in a way that some other parents are, so it can, i think ... there is kind of a serious nature to the discussion any of you happen ... would any of you have any sense in terms parental oversight versus what percentage might be people who are chronically unable to cover lunch expense costs? brandi janssen: that's a good question. i think if i were ... i don't off the top of my head, but i think looking at each ... because these policies are often set by building, we
5:47 am
feed into schools, so we know that levels of poverty ... for example, if you have a high level of free and reduced lunch, there are probably also lots of families that fall into that- heather hayes: into that little cusp? yeah. brandi janssen: - category where they're just over the line. thinking about what school boards can do is maybe thinking about it in a little more finely tuned way, and think are there different strategies for buildings, because is it just that, you know, we didn't re-load the lunch account, which has happened to a lot of us. heather hayes: yes, i happen. or is this indicative of a neighborhood that is lower income and as collectively does the community think this is something that's important to invest in to make sure that kids are fed. heather hayes: uh-huh . todd, at the end of your article one of the things that you mentioned was that perhaps it's time to talk a little bit about different options for solutions maybe over lunch. we
5:48 am
this morning, but i thought maybe we could talk a little bit about some of the solutions. lynda, i know you talked about in the boone district i believe there was a group of teachers that came up with something. could you speak a little bit about that?lynda w: yeah. in the boone district they have a fairly significant deficit that had to be covered and reacted with fairly strict access to school lunches or running deficits on school lunch accounts. then teachers who were seeing the kids who didn't have time to eat set up snack parents worked with the teachers to set up a community lunch account, so anytime a student was running a deficit, they could then just automatically just turn over and pull from that community account. the last that i heard on that, i think they had gathered about $1,200 to start with that community lunch account, but that was late last winter, so i don't know exactly where they are on that now. iowa city, i think there's
5:49 am
they send home backpacks of food with some children who they know to be at risk of hunger. there have been a lot of ways the community has stepped up. going back to todd's point, that's what makes it kind of sad, when you have these policies go into effect without that larger conversation, because i don't communities really wants to see our kids, whether they be 15 or six, go to school when they're hungry. heather hayes: i was trying to find the link to that again. i think ... i don't know if it was related to anything that came about because of your article todd, but there is a woman who is working on putting together
5:50 am
district, kind of that same account that could be drawn from for kids who come up and their balance is zero, so they don't lose their lunch. i believe you had somebody give a donation? todd dorman: yeah. i had a reader who handed me a check, basically saying they wanted that to go to linn-mar to set up some sort of account to feed into when the account balance goes negative, so yeah, the community involvement is ... i mean that's one solution becaus sense. heather hayes: uh-huh . in one sense i would call this almost like a private funding or private supplementing option. there are some pros to that, but what are the cons?brandi janssen: i think we want elected officials to step up and take responsibility for these systems. then when we start funding it privately, we lose some of that investment. i
5:51 am
but what do we want our ... what do we want the school lunch program to be? do we want our districts to invest in it or do we expect private citizens to invest in it? i think that's a conversation that any district should have that would be in this situation. todd dorman: i think it was ... i think the des moines register editorial board opined that basically their position was that school lunch should be free for every student. i forget what the number was that was assie saying basically this is part of the educational experience, the educational ... i mean you pay for all the other necessities, books and computers and all of those things. having a well-balanced lunch is part of that. i heard from at least a couple families after my column that talked about how they were sort of in that gap area where they were not eligible but also not wealthy, and they had students who were in extracurricular activities that
5:52 am
for practice and then they didn't get lunch, and then they had practice after school until 5:00 or 6:00 at night. you know, that's 12 hours without anything to eat, and so ... i mean that's a significant problem. i'm sure that's not a huge group of students, but it's enough that it should be addressed. lynda w: yeah, and i think on the federal level we are seeing some movement. the school lunch program has been under usda for, i don't know, four or five decades now, and we've seen what they introduced fairly recently was the cep program, community eligibility provision i think is what the alphabet soup stands for. what that means is when you have a school building and within that school building 40% of those students are receiving free lunches, the idea is that's probably an impoverished neighborhood, so other students are
5:53 am
and every student in that school receives lunches. there's no paperwork, none of this other kind of hassle on getting those free and reduced. it's just automatic. i happen to agree with the register. i think this should be a priority. if we're going to say that we have to have textbooks, that we have to have computers, that we need football these other things that we want our kids to use, we ought to give them the fuel to be able to use them. heather hayes: one of the things ... again, as i was doing some research for tonight's ... or this morning's program, i was surprised to find out with the paperwork component at the beginning of the school year, that actually there are many more individuals and families that qualify for free or reduced lunches that just don't
5:54 am
all the different steps they need to take to be able to receive that benefit. i guess that would sort of speak to or ease that pinch point with the cep. lynda w: yeah, and if you think about it, you think about the shaming factor on kids who ultimately can't refill their school lunch parental issue. you think about we want all the kids in our school to go to their fullest potential. when you look at all of those things that we want to accomplish and all of the negatives with the policies that we have now, this kind of mishmash, feeding the students seems to be the most simple answer that we could have, and make the investment and do it. that's the policy i'd like to see across iowa. heather hayes: that sounds like
5:55 am
you think would come up ... what would have to happen to make that possibility? just the political will? brandi janssen: keep the national school lunch program as the national school lunch program, so that we would require a change at the federal level which- heather hayes: at the federal level? brandi janssen: yeah, so all those funds get disbursed through the states, but the states do no the program. they simply process ... the departments of ag and the departments of education work together to manage them at the state level, but all the funding decisions are made at the bill level.heather hayes: okay. okay. brandi janssen: just to over-complicate it a little bit more. heather hayes: of course. lynda w: could school districts now just allow the deficits to accumulate and cover them as they're doing? brandi janssen: i believe so. yeah. lynda w: i mean they don't have to wait on- brandi janssen: the districts can make that decision. lynda w: yeah. they don't have to wait on the federal government if they just wanted to ... we're going to pay this? brandi janssen: sure. and not all school
5:56 am
the national school lunch program. that's another ... that's another ... it's a choice to participate. lynda w: oh, okay. heather hayes: what are the other options then for a school district? brandi janssen: well, then they could fund something themselves or the parents could manage it themselves, but i think ... i don't know the numbers off the top of my head, now that i said that. most school do, but it's not like it's a requirement that you have to participate. if you are in it though, then you have to follow the requirements, which are stringent and they cause some of these complicating factors of what all those sorts of things. heather hayes: uh-huh , and what counts as a vegetable.brandi janssen: what counts as a vegetable, which is what we disagreed about over time apparently, so- heather hayes: yes. i hear about that too, why there has to be so much broccoli on the plate. brandi janssen: because you have to have a green vegetable every week and lettuce only goes so far. they do like to mix it up, lettuce or broccoli. heather hayes: or green beans. brandi janssen: green beans, right. heather hayes: green beans are a favorite, yes. well, we haven't solved anything
5:57 am
to add to a broader conversation that will continue at state and local levels. it's difficult to ... and i think, brandi, you especially have brought that to the table, it's difficult to create and fund policies that will address the very wide needs of students who are each individuals, with their own individual gifts and their own individual challenges needs. i think we can all agree however that whether we be at the state, the local, the national level, whether we are parents or just members in the community, that the health and welfare of our children and youth are an important priority, and so i think ... i want to thank you all for this discussion and for your participation this morning. i would also like
5:58 am
today, so on behalf of the inter-religious council of linn county, thank you for being here. tune in next week for more issue based discussion. take care and
5:59 am
starting out with a live look at one person died and other are injured after a
6:00 am
police arrested two people. we have the latest on the fatal crash in cedar rapids that left two people dead and injured two officers. hear the story of a couple who was at the scene at the moment of the accident and tried to help. and president- elect donald trump calls the wisconsin recount "a scam." green party presidential nominee responds to the accusations. you're watching kcrg-tv9. now, from your 24 hour news source, this is the kcrg-tv9 saturday morning news. good morning and thanks for joining us. we begin with first alert storm ritz. foggy conditions for some across eastern iowa this morning. be careful if you're out driving. remember to always use your low beams when you come across dense fog. the fog will move out and rain chances will move in later in the day. this system will bring heavy rain at times and possibly even a rumble of thunder or two throughout the overnight and into monday. rain chances will continue into monday and when the system is all said and done, rainfall totals could amount to an inch or so for some. winds will be strong as this system pushes through. starting tonight into monday winds are


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on