I doubt that comparison of official government estimates of the number of children who are "food insecure" in
It is rare that people in
Our family, with its two steady incomes, was solidly middle class--as well off, perhaps even better off than most. We were never hungry. Given that, a critic might say that my experience does not negate the fact that there are people who are less well off who need government funded programs like school lunch. Not so fast. The town I grew up in had, and still has, a large First Nations population, approaching 50% of the residents. Some 2000 of those First Nations residents lived on reserves which border the town, and the problems which plague First Nations people everywhere were certainly present--alcohol and drug abuse, and poverty. And certainly those problems also existed among the general population. Daily, I shared my classrooms with children who undoubtedly came from households that had far less than we did. It may be that some of those students were hungry on occasion, but if they were, I don't remember it. Some of my school-age friends were not able to rise above the challenges of their surroundings and fell into depressing lives of drugs and crime. Others are healthy university graduates with spouses and children and promising, meaningful careers. I doubt that the absence of a school lunch program provided much impact either way.
Spending a few days in my old home town this past summer served to confirm my remembrances. The First Nations reserves do not look any more prosperous than they did 30 years ago, and there are still a few sad souls asking for money outside the liquor store, but chronic hunger does not look like a problem serious or pervasive enough to warrant the typical Fed response--"WE ARE HERE TODAY TO ANNOUNCE A WAR ON HUNGER!" In other words, the vast majority of Canadians are thriving, and would likely not be any more thriving had they been spared the chore of either fixing or eating bag lunches for the last 65 years.
So what's the point? Only that a modern, Western government that does not do every little thing for its citizens may still expect that those citizens will flourish. Critics might single out the Canadian example and argue that the otherwise comprehensive nature of the Canadian welfare state is what allows citizens to get by without suffering too much from the lack of a federal school lunch program. One could just as easily make the counter-case however, and suggest that the school lunch example demonstrates that without the other, often sacred elements of the Canadian and American welfare states, the citizens of both countries would be no less happy, healthy, and prosperous than they are right now.
The federal school lunch program in the
It will be a huge challenge for any leader to muster the political courage and inertia required to cut or alter programs like school lunch, or Social Security, or Medicaid, and either return that money to the citizens to spend or save as they wish, or to spend it on items that fall more directly underneath the constitutional purview of the United States. Those who oppose such cuts or alterations will say that we cannot afford to burden our citizens so, or that such burdens are inconsistent with our values. But we can afford the burden, and we would not betray our values to take it on.