America, School Lunches, and Poverty’s Endless Cycle.

The richest country in the world continues to think of creative ways to punish the most vulnerable.

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Photo via Antor Paul on Unsplash

It seems as though with each passing year in the United States and even across the globe, we live amidst the evidence of capitalism collapsing around us. Like a bacterial infection, the economic system that came to dominate the world for centuries has fed off of the middle, working, and poor classes to the benefit of the rich, squeezing more and more out of the people until there is virtually nothing left.

Leave it to capitalism to feed off of the scraps.

While capitalism’s treatment towards the poor has never been particularly humane, the slow death of this profit driven system has by design ensured that it manifests itself in uniquely cruel ways as time continues to pass. Lately, responses to children and their school lunch debts seem to be a favored way in which to further humiliate and degrade the most vulnerable among us.

Recently, a school district in New Jersey garnered national attention when it was established that students with more than seventy five dollars of lunch debt would not only go without lunch, but they would be banned from purchasing prom tickets, attending field trips, or participating in any extracurricular activities.

As if the psychological stresses of being poor and hungry weren’t enough, capitalism in the richest country on earth has found a few new cherries to add on top.

It’s difficult to even to know where to begin describing just how cruel and unproductive this is. As if being hungry and ashamed of not being able to afford food is enough, banning students from social as well as educational events, and systemically holding them back seems to take that to a brutal new level.

Even putting prom aside, there is no denying that banning students from field trips and extracurricular activities is a nearly perfect example of how capitalism has designed poverty as a construct in which the working and poor classes are kept at a near constant disadvantage.

As we all know, field trips aren’t just fun and games. Many of my field trips — particularly in my high school years — were focused on education and nearly always involved some sort of assignment or essay, so that our teacher could determine what we had gotten from the experience and how it applied to the particular class. If I had been banned from attending my tenth grade earth science field trip, there is a very good chance I would have failed the class because I would not have been able to hand in the worksheet or essay/project that followed it.

Under this policy, not only are low income students being shamed and humiliated by not being allowed to attend field trips with their classmates (who will then know their economic situation), their chances of moving up, graduating on time, and going to college are now jeopardized over something they have no control over.

That being said, perhaps the even more cruel aspect of this is the banning from extracurricular activities.

To ban a child from extracurricular activities, particularly in their high school years puts them at a significant disadvantage when it comes to getting in to college and moving forward with higher education. As we all know, participation in extracurricular activities is a vital aspect of a college’s decision on whether or not to admit a student in to their class.

To take away a students chances of getting in to college over student lunch debt that their parent or guardian cannot afford to pay off is the epitome of what makes capitalism and the poverty it constructs so vile. As if it wasn’t infuriating enough, putting a policy like this within the context of the richest country in the world should be enough to make us ready to take to the streets.

It should go without saying that something like this is absolutely unsustainable, and we can only tolerate so much. Our young people deserve better, as do the American people overall. To implement a policy like this that could affect a young person arguably for the rest of their life simply would not happen in a just and moral world. In the United States, a land that theoretically takes pride in the opportunities to advance and do better, it should be absolutely inexcusable.

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Lauren is a writer & leftist with analysis on topics related to politics & policy. She can be reached at or Twitter @xlauren_mx

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