Local school program has larger ramifications

Fairmont Area Schools has put in place a free breakfast program for elementary students. Kids get milk, juice and a snack, like crackers. There are benefits to this, but the program is not without controversy.

Fundamentally, a child who is fed is going to do better in school. Full bellies translate into fewer bellyaches and less acting out in class. The children can concentrate, hopefully, on their work.

In addition, the breakfast program brings in revenue to Fairmont Area, because the federal government reimburses the school for food served to students meeting income guidelines. But the actual cost of the food for the district is less than what the government provides in funding. So there is extra money for the food service program.

The controversial aspects of the program are simple to understand:

o Should all students get free breakfast, or just those who qualify for free or reduced meals at school?

o Can the federal government, which is perpetually broke, continue to afford these kinds of programs?

o Should taxpayers have to pick up the tab for a program that is sending more dollars to schools than they need to feed the poorest students? Are taxpayers responsible for other people’s children, or are parents?

We understand the benefits and the criticisms of free breakfast for all. We understand why the school has chosen to implement the program. Surely, however, all of this cannot be ideal.

The questions the program raises – not locally, but on the federal level – are the overriding questions of the age in which we live. Are we going to be a nation that promotes individual rights and personal responsibility, or one that advocates collective obligations and dependency on government? Over history, we have moved from the former toward the latter. We must keep asking how far we will go, and whether that will be good or bad for the strength and character of the nation’s citizens, and hence the nation.