Congressman: School lunch remarks weren't aimed at 'poor kids'

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) on Friday morning defended his remarks suggesting children receiving free lunch should have to work for it.

Kingston said on CNN's “New Day” that his comments were not targeted at a particular economic group, and he just wanted to discuss how to promote a strong work ethic for children.

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“This was not an indictment on anybody in a particular socioeconomic group,” Kingston said. “This would be good for all children.”

“I never did say 'poor kids,’ ” he added.

Kingston also cited a handful of examples where schools required children to clean cafeteria tables or perform community service as a regular obligation.

In a video of a Jackson County Republican Party in Georgia, recently posted to YouTube, Kingston said free lunch recipients could “maybe sweep the floor of the cafeteria” or pay at least a few cents for their meals, in order to make clear that “there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch.”

Kingston lamented the attacks he has received for the remarks and said they show an inability to have reasonable policy discussions in modern politics.

“This wasn't a policy statement,” Kingston said. “This was a discussion, and it seems like you can't even have that in America anymore.”

Kingston, who currently represents the 1st Congressional District in southeast Georgia, is one of many candidates vying for the Republican nomination for Georgia's open Senate seat in 2014.