there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch

Jul 27, 2010

You know how some municipalities have a “free lunch” program? Well, we are attending a music camp in just such a town. I was pretty amazed it was offered here as I thought Wyoming was the last bastion of the whole “land of the free and the home of brave” thing.

I remember the first time I encountered the free lunch program. My children and I were playing at a park in Idaho when this huge bus of kids from a daycare were led out in single file line and told to stand and wait till the lunch lady came. I was bewildered by what was going on. Then a van pulled up to the park and a lady got out and started handing out brown bags with a pb&j sandwich, an apple, and a little box of milk. After she handed them out to all the daycare kids, all the kids who lived in the houses surrounding the park, and a variety of YMCA summer camp kids, she came over to us and gave us some bags. I told her “No, thank you,” but she would not listen, she said she had some left and they needed to be eaten. I again told her “No, thank you,” but she put them on our blanket and walked away.

Later I learned the schools in our area provide breakfast as well and that the children in my area are eating it…and that their mothers have stopped cooking them breakfast because the school does it for them…and that the kids who do still get breakfast at home are also eating it at school. What????? My tax dollars are going to feed people breakfast and lunch? People who don’t need the help!

Well, today at music camp, we were offered free lunch. I guess the local elementary school has a free lunch program during the summer months to insure that children don’t starve because they aren’t in school. Pretty much everyone at the camp took advantage of the free lunch and when I say took advantage that is exactly what I mean. Took advantage. The program isn’t intended to feed camp participants who are here from all over the intermountain west, it is intended to feed children in poverty level homes whose parents can’t afford to feed them.

I told my children all about the program and why we would not be participating. First of all, it is not the government’s nor the government’s schools responsibility to feed children.


Secondly, it is not the government’s responsibility to tax people to feed other people.


It is totally and completely wrong for them to do so. The responsibility to feed hungry people lies with themselves, their families, and then you and I.

Thirdly, aside from the program being wrong, it is being poorly implemented. It is not efficient or effective when bags of food are handed out to people at a park who already have food with them or music camp attendees who are not starving.

Yes, attending this camp is costing us an arm and a leg, but it will not cost us our principles and our self-respect.

Related Posts


  1. My kids begged to eat the free breakfast when they had it at our schools, and I told them that I was able and willing to feed them breakfast at home, and so that’s what they would do. They have the free summer lunch program here too… I’ve let my kids go a couple of times for something to do, but I don’t feel right about it. I agree with you… it’s definitely abused, and in my opinion, unnecessary. If my kids can eat peanut butter sandwiches made by me for lunch, I think other kids can have the same at their own homes. I don’t understand this free food for all policy at all.

  2. Jenny Hanson

    Amen sister Tracy!!! We have the same program here. It is so incredibly terrible. The saddest thing is how people flock to the parks to eat it. Dentist’s families, doctor’s families, and they don’t seem to even think about it. No apology, no shame, UGH!!!! I’m with you, it is yet another parasitic program of the government funded by hard working Americans who have enough principles and self respect to not take it…even though they are paying for it.

  3. Robyn

    Oh, I agree. Once I explained to my oldest why we don’t go she has never asked again. We take our own food to other parks that do not sponsor this program because my little ones don’t quite understand why they don’t get their own sack lunch like the other kids.

  4. Tasha

    Yeah, what a great post. I agree with you, and I can’t believe how many people do take advantage of the free lunch programs around here. Amazing what our country has come to.

  5. Amber

    Thank you so much for posting this. Glad to know that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

  6. “Taking advantage” is absolutely spot on. Several years ago, I cared for two children for the summer. Their mother *insisted* they participate in the YMCA “free lunch” program several times a week, as it “was free to everyone.” I tried to explain that no, it wasn’t free; it certainly wasn’t intended to be used by comfortably working-class families who could afford groceries (or uncomfortably working-class families who needed food program assistance monthly)–it was for the poorest of the poor only.

    She kept insisting, and finally I agreed (and still kick myself for agreeing) to drop her kids off at the Y *one* time each week for their “free” lunch of plastic “chicken” nuggest, plastic veggies, plastic canned fruit, and plastic dessert. I took my kids over to the park to play for the lunch period, and we enjoyed real food instead.

    I do agree it’s vitally important to tell our children *why* we don’t take part in illogical government money transfer programs, so they will be informed citizens as they grow. These poorly-managed, poorly-considered programs are definitely on my list of “why we choose home education”–I don’t want my kids having that in their face all day, every day.

    Homemade lunch is MUCH less expensive… the costs, both financial and moral, of the “free” programs are just too high a price to pay.

  7. tracy

    Thanks for all the great comments! Nice to know someone is reading and actually thinking about the things I write!

  8. Marie

    Unfortunately, I have been thinking about the things you wrote all night. It is OK to hate, despise, and loathe this program. But it is never OK to be snobbish to those who participate in it. I was at the park one day with you when someone let their children eat with this program and her feelings were crushed by the way she was treated. I hope you ladies are remembering to be careful with whom you pass judgment, you have no idea who is going hungry these days. It may surprise you.

  9. The irony of these programs is that many of the families they are intended for don’t use them, either because they don’t want a handout or because they are too embarrassed to use them. You’d be amazed at how much funding revolves around the free lunch and breakfast programs at the schools, they go way beyond just the meals. It’s a collosal mismanagement of funds.

  10. tracy

    {{{{{Marie}}}}} Hugs to YOU!

    I would never want to speak or act in a way that would hurt someone else. I am sorry that I did so and hope you would tell the woman I am sorry or give me her name and I will personally apologize to her. I am greatly saddened to know I have hurt someone.

    Trust me, I also know all about the current financial situation and know many people do not have enough food to go around. I try to be prayerful and to help others as much as I can and am completely humbled and grateful for the abundant help that has been given to us.

    My point is, the programs are wrong AND they are being taken advantage of by people who do not need the help.

    Sending much love your way!

  11. There is a purpose for this program, but I agree, it’s widely abused. Ours is locally distributed at a few schools, and several of the women in our neighborhood pack up their kids as an opportunity to go chat. I know some others that work, but send their jr. high and high school age kids over with their friends. Good to hear it doesn’t sit well with others too.

  12. jessica

    Lots of people also just don’t know or understand what a giant mess our government is making. Loads upon loads of good, lovely people just see a free lunch and think, “Oh hey, fun.” I think we can educate people if we do it carefully and thoughtfully but it’s so easy to come off as holier than thou or ‘snobby’ in all of our self righteous haughtiness as we are disgusted by the greater issues: our government “trying” to inappropriately fill the charity role. It’s a huge problem and of course, as you know, much more far reaching than free lunch programs.