Republican U.S. Senate nominee Todd Akin drew the attention of reporters at the 60th annual Governor's Ham Breakfast when he said the federal government shouldn't subsidize school lunches, a program that affects millions of children.
"Why not do it at the state level?" Akin, currently a congressman, said when asked about the issue at the event, held at the Missouri State Fair.
He said it's part of his broader, longstanding opposition to any federal involvement in local school issues. "The federal government should be out of the education business,” Akin said.
His opponent, incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., responded by warning that cash-strapped school districts can't afford to take over subsidized lunches that currently serve more than 600,000 Missouri children.
"I think school lunches are a part of the education system," McCaskill said.
Akin's unspoken response would be something to the effect that handling at the state level would give states the "right" to simply decline. Because who needs to feed those poor brown kids some lunch anyway? As his pal Rush Limbaugh would say, "Let them dumpster dive!"
I know it doesn't matter to Mr. States Rights Akin, but I'm going to say it anyway. There are nearly 32 million children in this country who rely on the school lunch program to avert hunger. As things stand today, the Republican version of the farm bill would toss 280,000 or so of them out of the program.
Children who are hungry are not learning. They can't focus on anything other than being hungry. Once again, I recall the words of Jaelithe, who knew what it was like to be hungry, and also lives in Todd Akin's neck of the woods.
But going hungry — that is a different story. That's waking up in the morning hungry. Feeling, throughout the day, hungry. Lying in bed not able to sleep just yet because you are hungry. Dreaming about feeling hungry.
And there is not any trip to the taco place down the street and not a trip to McDonald's instead and not a trip to the farmer's market or the grocery store, either, because there is no money for those things. There is not even the option of a trip to the backyard for some homegrown tomatoes or cucumbers or strawberries because there is no yard when you live in a run-down apartment or a shelter or a car.
There is only your hollow-eyed mother who is hungrier than you are dividing the last stale crackers to make them last. Assuming that you are lucky enough to have a mother. And crackers.
And the going part of going hungry means of course that you keep going this way. That despite the aching hollow in your belly and the listlessness that overtakes you brain, you do keep going — to school or to work or to the streets or at the least from one side of an empty room to another. You keep waking up in the morning and going about your day as best you can as if you were not hungry. Because the world expects it of you, because you are ashamed to admit you are hungry, because your body holds some sort of ancient optimism that there will be food again around some corner, because, after all, what else can you do?
You don't forget going hungry, and I know that you don't forget it because I was once a hungry child and some of my earliest and most indelible memories are of going hungry.Of feeling motivated by hunger. Motivated to suck on a lone slice of pickle for hours just to keep the feeling of food in my mouth. (I can still taste that pickle when I think about it. I was four.) Motivated to think that someone else's trash smelled like food. Yes, hunger motivates people.
But you see, it was the free school lunches I qualified for, in those early days, when I was hungry, that kept enough glucose in my brain that I could pay attention in my classroom.It was the knowledge that her children would still eat if she went back to school that allowed my high-school-dropout teenage mother to spend my early childhood finishing her college degree instead of working at McDonald's. State-sponsored food, given to me at a crucial time by the fine state of Missouri, helped lift my family out of poverty.
What Jaelithe didn't realize when she wrote that was that the lunches she received came from the federal government, not the state. But still. The point is that Todd Akin wants to be a selfish, nasty pig and take food out of the mouths of poor children in the name of "states rights."