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Free meal program in Anchorage schools just another 'entitlement'

Don Smith

On Monday evening, the Anchorage School Board will be asked by the school administration to approve ASD Memorandum #19 (2012-2013). This memorandum will authorize the award of a contract for the purchase of 6,720 cases of boxed meals. These meals cost $526,915. This purchase will be an expansion of a program that fed students in five schools last year to 12 schools in the 2012-2013 school year.

I'm concerned that the Anchorage School District is moving into a program that expands the entitlement mentality that we have in the United States, Alaska and in our school district. Currently we provide "free" breakfasts, "free" lunches and are now expanding the "free" after-school meal programs within the ASD.

For the record, I need to let everyone know that this is currently not paid for by Anchorage taxpayers. The costs are reimbursed by the Federal Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).  I'm not sure if we as a community pay anything towards the program, like handling and warehousing.

My concern as a citizen and member of the Anchorage School Board is the concept that we as a society have to support and promote this entitlement and many other "FREE" government programs.  Someone is paying for this, and I suspect that it might just be you and I as taxpayers. Citizens and taxpayers need to know that these kind of programs are all around us. Right after I became a member of the Anchorage School Board, we were presented with a memo that authorized the program that provides "FREE" taxi service to homeless students.  This "Free" service only costs Anchorage Taxpayers $500,000 per year.

One well-known reporter responding to my email about the "free" dinner meals said, "So, you're saying children should go hungry if they were unlucky enough to be born to no-good parents? I assume this means you're in favor of encouraging rotten parents to get abortions so they don't have even more children to abuse?"

My response: "No, I'm not in favor of starving kids or causing parents to 'get abortions.' You should seriously spend a little time investigating this issue. I believe that the standards are low and that in many schools everyone is entitled to "Free" meals regardless of their economic situation. Because this is "Free" money -- there is little oversight. It's no wonder that America is in such a financial crisis. Imagine what this one national program costs us! Instead of just giving and giving...maybe we should encourage some method of review and control. Maybe parents should have to pay back -- by spending one evening cleaning at the school -- or some other task.  Just a thought!"

It is no wonder that the United States of America is adding one trillion dollars of new debt each year in order to fund our entitlement society. Think about all the programs in addition to free school meals and taxi service for students that go on in our community. The following list is partial and are just some of the programs that I could remember off the top of my head:

Free or reduced subsidized housing, People Mover passes, $1 cell phones, the Food Bank, numerous church welfare programs, Catholic Social Services (bringing in 10 to 15 family members monthly who are refugees from Africa and other countries), Beans Cafe, Covenant House, Brother Francis Shelter, Anchorage Community Health, Neighborhood Health Center, Alaska Native Hospital, Emergency Rooms at Providence and Alaska Regional, Salvation Army's numerous programs, Food Stamps, Habitat for Humanity, and Medicaid.

These are just some of the programs that support our entitlement mentality.

Do we ever really ask recipients to pay back? Maybe we need to require some form of work to help the community that gives so much! I can imagine recipients being required to clean up streets, parks, schools, public buildings, & bike trails -- just to name a few.

What happens when this federal program stops? Imagine the pressure that will come from recipients who want it to continue!

Anchorage, we need to wake up!

Don Smith, a lifelong Anchorage resident, is a member of the Anchorage School Board and is running as a Republican for Seat H of the Alaska state Senate in the 2012 elections.  Over the years, he's served on the Anchorage Borough Assembly, the Alaska State Legislature, Anchorage Charter Commission and Anchorage Assembly.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch. Alaska Dispatch welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.