It's encouraging to hear the number of people who've said my letter about waste and hypocrisy in school food programs stirred up a fire storm both positive and negative. At least we're talking!
Some written responses were predictable examples of why government programs rarely improve, after all, it's easier to twist someone's words, demonize, and say "how dare you!" than consider what's actually being said. Truly caring about children means being willing to search for a better way to meet needs, reduce fraud and waste so our resources go further, and break the generational pattern of need for the future.
Space limitations kept me from previously offering suggestions. Here's a few to start more dialogue. 1) Stop forcing children to take food they will throw away ten minutes later. Keep packaged leftovers. 2) DON'T get used to it!! A friend who worked in the school lunch program said she used to cry when she saw the daily waste but was told, "get used to it - that's just the way it is." DON'T! The great humanitarians in the world must cry along with my friend when they see our wastefulness. 3) Prepare and serve food for those who request it. When overnight monitoring at the Homeless Shelter we call The Salvation Army in the morning to let them know how many guests want their free lunch so they know how many to prepare. Let's follow their example. 4) Require parents with children on free and reduced lunch to go through financial counseling. Offer to be a volunteer counselor. It works! Our church meets many requests for financial help but when an individual makes a second request they must also meet with our financial counselor. Whole family futures are changing because of it. 5) Take inventory of your own family and their dependency on government. Try to change it.
Finally, many people assume wasteful, expanded government programs are the only way to meet needs and will go so far as to use scriptures to defend their position. But God's commands to care for the poor are first to us personally, and then to the church. He also has expectations for those who receive help. Jesus fed the poor and healed the sick but he put an even greater emphasis on changing their future. I would encourage people to study all of scripture, not just select verses.