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Free lunches do not fight poverty

Our fantastic Barnesville Rotary Club recently had a program presenter from a metro area club who was touting a free school lunch program in Honduras. It seems a member of his club had taken a motorcycle trip through central America and met a starving girl at the Honduran border. He was touched and started a well-intentioned program through which hundreds of school lunches are now provided to needy students in that area. They send powdered milk, buy food staples locally and I am sure they are making a big difference. But, the speaker lost me when he said, ‘We are eliminating poverty in Honduras through this school lunch program.’ We have had free school lunches here in America for 40-50 years yet the percentage of our population in poverty continues to grow. In many school systems, including our own, everybody can get a free lunch. Of course, these lunches are not ‘˜free’. The remaining taxpayers among us are paying for them. The last figures I saw indicated that the American taxpayer has spent $22 trillion in the War on Poverty since LBJ’s ill-advised Great Society programs were instituted. Those programs basically moved poor people from rural settings where work, though menial, was available to housing projects in the inner city and gave them just enough food and money to completely take away their desire to work and fend for themselves. That is a sad fact but it is fact nonetheless. Such programs not only teach entitlement, they indoctrinate a large segment of the population in the entitlement mentality which basically chants, ‘I am alive. I don’t have what you have so you owe me. Now pay up.’ When our now 20-year-old oldest daughter May Melton was very young, she experienced some sort of dental issue while we were visiting in Savannah. My sister is a dental hygienist. At the time she was working for the only periodontist in Savannah who took Medicaid patients. She worked May Melton in, the dental problem was fixed and Laura paid them. A small child witnessed the exchange of money and remarked to his mother, ‘You mean people pay for this?’ That free dental program taught that child entitlement and, odds are, he still has his hand out today. There are countless more examples. We have waged war on poverty for 50 years, poverty is kicking our butts and we shouldn’t be surprised. No amount of money nor all the good intentions in the world can put an end to poverty. In the 26th chapter of Matthew, we are told Jesus was in the home of Simon the leper when a woman anointed his head with a very precious ointment. Some of the disciples questioned this, noting the ointment could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor. Jesus chastened them and said, ‘For ye have the poor always with you; but me you have not always.’ The school lunch program in Honduras, like our own, is fighting the battle against hunger up close and personal on the front lines. Neither has much, if any, impact on poverty but are highly successful in teaching entitlement. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette.

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