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If you're one of those low-information nimrods who still believes that the privatization of essential services traditionally run by government is a great capitalist idea that serves everyone well, please try not to be butthurt when I tell you that I think you are a blithering idiot. If you're not sure why I think that, or if you feel that my opinion of you is unfounded, please read the following from this week's Attleboro, Massachusetts, Sun Chronicle:

As many as 25 students at Coelho Middle School were denied meals or told to throw their lunches away Tuesday because they could not pay or their pre-paid accounts did not contain enough money, school officials said today... Parents said some of the children cried after they were not allowed to eat or had to toss out their lunches... School officials said an on-site employee from Whitson’s, the school system’s school lunch provider, apparently gave the order not to extend meals to students who could not pay or whose credit was already overextended.
Isn't that special? Now, I'm sure you're already getting the warm-and-fuzzies all over, but wait; there's more:
Parents said they were told by their children that some pupils in the cafeteria line had already picked up their lunch and were told at the checkout they had to throw it away... Victoria Greaves, 11, a fifth grader at Coelho, said a cashier told her to throw away her lunch because there was not enough money in her account. She said she threw her meal away and got nothing to eat... Greaves said "about 20" other pupils also were denied meals.
Why, ain't that a heartwarming scene? Right out of a Dickens novel, it is! Here you have a few dozen or so kids going hungry because they owed some money to the school cafeteria's for-profit lunch provider. But so what? After all, we simply can not have what's right and decent holding down quarterly profits! Why, the shareholders would never tolerate management so beset by malfeasance that a few dozen freeloading 11-year-olds were allowed to eat a tiny plate of big beefy nachos, veggie dippers, and meat lovers' pizza at company expense! Damn the little bastards; the CEO's bonus is riding on the bottom line! Don't you understand?! The CEO's bonus, for God's sake!!!

Sigh. Please read on...

Now, I'm sure some people--and I'm certainly not pointing fingers at Mitt "Let them eat cake" Romney and his millions of ideologically inbred kinfolk--will claim that no one, not even kids, should get a free ride, that parents should be made to pay up, to be responsible, that the taxpayers who fund the school district and pay for their own kids' lunches shouldn't have to also shoulder the burden for parents who aren't paying for their own children. To those people I say:


These are children we're talking about. Middle-schoolers. Pre-adolescents. Kids not too many years removed pre-school. And, regardless of the reasons their lunch bill hasn't been caught up, they need to eat. Period. It doesn't matter whether they're children from poor families that struggle just to scrape enough money together every month to keep the heat on during the winter, or if the kids are sneaky little devils who are pooling together the lunch money their parents give them to instead buy a copy of Grand Theft Auto V; kids need to eat.

For the record, the schools lunch provider, Whitson's Culinary Services (Islandia, NY) has publicly apologized. But the damage has obviously already been done, and, in my mind, lends yet more credibility to the argument that privatization isn't always what it's sold as.

(You may be interested to know that Whitson's, which caters to a large number of schools, senior centers, and medical centers, has been in deep trouble recently; just a year-and-a-half ago, the company was forced to pay $1.6 million dollars to settle a lawsuit filed by the state of New York for overcharging schools by not passing on vendor discounts as required by law and contract, instead keeping that money for themselves. No, this is not proof that the "Let the little deadbeats starve!" incident was intentional and indicative of a dollars-over-everything-else mentality that may just permeate the entire corporation from the top down.)

For their part, the Attleboro school district is working with Whitson's to ensure that in the future even kids who can't or won't cough up their lunch money will still be able to eat, even if that's something as simple as a cheese sandwich (yes, two thin slices of white bread surrounding a single rubbery square of artificial "cheese product") and an apple. Also, the Whitson's Scrooge manager who withheld the meals has been fired, tarred, feathered, run out of town on a rail, forbidden from every having kids of his or her own, and permanently banned from coming within 100 yards of a child placed on "administrative leave".

There. I know you will all feel better now.

Anyway,  take heart; even if Whitson's couldn't bear to see some of their corporate profits held back by a bunch of fifth-graders, some of the hungry students' peers at least tried to take care of things as best they could:

Jen Ingemi, parent of a fifth grade boy, said the girl behind her son in line began crying when she was told to throw her lunch away. He said her son offered to share his lunch.
So, do you still think, despite mountains of evidence, that handing over necessary services to for-profit corporations is a dandy, peachy-keen, all-upside idea that always works every single time it's used? Then I'll say it again: you're an idiot.

No lunch for you, cash-strapped middle schoolers!

School forces students who can't pay to skip lunch, then trashes the food

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