Sanders should fix the child food programs we already have before creating new dysfunction
On the presidential campaign trail, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been pushing for a policy that would pave the way for free meals at school for all children. His campaign promise is backed by the notion that one out of six children don’t know where their next meal is coming from. His flawed logic asserts that the federal government should make free and reduced-price lunch available to not only the one out of six who need assistance, but to the five out of six children who are already adequately fed.
I have been aware of food scarcity in American homes since I can remember. I come from a family that never had food scarcity issues, but my family attempted to adopt several children who came from families that did. My mother worked in public education, and I was raised watching her go above and beyond her job description to meet the needs of students in her district. Food scarcity for children is a serious issue that must be handled with care and diligence. We are fortunate to live in a country that has an abundance of food because of the private sector and capitalism that has enabled kindhearted people like my mom to give voluntarily when there is a need.
In most circumstances, the responsibility to care and provide for children should morally and legally be the obligation of the parents, biological or not, and not the state. The parents of a child ought to be the sole provider. But circumstances arise in life where parents and children need assistance, and thus, we have public safety nets in place at the local, state and federal levels for those instances.
There are more than seven major federal food programs created specifically for children: National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Special Milk Program, Child and Adult Food Program, Summer Food Service Program, Team Nutrition and Community Food Systems. These are multi-billion-dollar programs that have been developed and implemented throughout the country to supplement meals for children in need, and their focus should be serving the one in six underprivileged children Sanders keeps mentioning.
If Sanders has a true passion for addressing food scarcity in public schools and observes a failure in one of the above seven programs, he and the rest of Congress ought to make reforming them a priority. Sanders’ current job, which he shares with only 99 other people, and the platform he has on the U.S. Senate floor, give him a pretty big microphone with which to draw attention to this issue.
But instead of doing the job he was elected to do, Sanders is running a presidential campaign comprised of solutions in search of a problem. If there are one in six children suffering from food scarcity who should be receiving the benefits of a booming economy that funds seven federal child food programs, then I suggest Sen. Sanders do his job in the Senate. Sanders needs to make sure his federal programs are functioning properly before he suggests creating any more dysfunction that could result in leaving more children hungry.
We all should be concerned and focused on the one in six children and the family circumstances that lead to food scarcity by implementing solutions to help these families get steady employment, develop budgets, manage money and create a new family tree that will allow for self-sufficiency. This is not Sanders’ solution. His policy proposal would instead throw millions of dollars at the five in six kids who don’t have food scarcity problems.
Sanders’ proposal is another unnecessary federal program aimed at growing the federal government, creating more dependency where it is not needed and building upon the socialist agenda Sanders is attempting to implement throughout the nation.
The goal of the next president of the United States should be to ensure that all children know where their next meal is coming from. We should grow public-private partnerships, continue to support a pro-growth agenda, lower taxes, improve job training for Americans and encourage families to provide for themselves, rather than grow the costly welfare state that makes more Americans dependent on the federal government.
Christina Herrin is the director of Free to Choose Medicine, a project of The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.