Tag Archives: news

Dear Mr. Thompson, THANK YOU.

For the second time in as many weeks, there has been a story in the news about students’ lunch accounts being overdrawn and lunches being thrown away. Luckily, this most recent story had a happy ending. That’s because Kenny Thompson in Houston, TX decided to do something about it. When he learned that children at the elementary school where he was a mentor and tutor were eating cold cheese sandwiches or going without lunch because they didn’t have enough money in their accounts to pay for a hot meal, he decided to pay off all of the overdrawn accounts—to the tune of $465.

I was overcome when I read about what Mr. Thompson had done for those children—because I used to be one of them. There was a time growing up when my family struggled financially. My brother and I qualified for the free or reduced lunch program—it was the only way my mom could afford for us to have lunch everyday. Though I was by no means the only person I knew of in the lunch program, I was terribly embarrassed. So I either chose to skip lunch, saying I just wasn’t hungry, or I secretly used what little money I had saved to pay for my own lunch so that my friends wouldn’t know the truth. It’s been 20 years, and I can still remember how embarrassed I felt and how scared I was that I would be found out.

I ache to think how those children must feel when their trays full of healthy, hot food are thrown away in front of them, their shame for something over which they have no control put on display. I am beyond thankful that that was not common practice when I was in school, and I pray that my girls never have to endure such cruelty.

We try to teach our children empathy and compassion for those less fortunate, but this is the model they are seeing at school from adults who are supposed to help set an example. And we wonder why we are noticing more and more behavioral and emotional problems in kids today. I would challenge any adult to walk away from a similar humiliation unscathed and with their self-confidence and self-esteem fully intact. I am 32 years old—I have years of cognitive and emotional development on my side, and I think it would still reduce me to tears. Just think about how children process that type of behavior when they might not have the skills necessary to understand it or deal with it. Think about how they may emulate it in the future because they think it’s acceptable.

I understand that schools are businesses, with budgets and policies just like any other business. But taking away a child’s food is not the way to address a parent’s financial issues. Contact the parent, document the debt and then eventually turn it over to a collections agency—just like any other business would do. There is a serious flaw in our society when an inmate is fed better than a third grader, and even more so when people think that is okay.

So thank you, Mr. Thompson, for showing us that not everyone can just look the other way while a child goes hungry or is publicly shamed in the name of “policy.” Thank you for showing us that there are still kind and compassionate people in the world. Thank you for serving as a role model for children and parents alike and showing us all what acceptable behavior truly looks like. Thank you for inspiring us to open our eyes—and to do something about what we see.

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Will New Study Help or Hurt Breastfeeding in America?

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Lev Dolgachov

News broke this week about a small Scottish study that says that exclusively breastfeeding for six months may not be the best recommendation. The study, conducted by Aberdeen and Stirling universities and published in the British Medical Journal, suggests that by recommending six months of exclusive breastfeeding (as the World Health Organization currently does), we are actually setting new mothers up to fail.

I have very mixed feelings about this study and the press it has received. On the one hand, the study focuses on communication, support, and setting realistic expectations. Having had a very difficult time with breastfeeding in the beginning (as I talked about in this post), I can completely relate to the pressure, feeling guilty for not “getting it right,” and the need to be up front with pregnant women and new mothers that breastfeeding does not always come naturally and is not always sunshine and rainbows.

On the flip side of the coin, I worry that this study is going to provide an excuse not to breastfeed and may lead to more new mothers giving up on breastfeeding too soon. The study itself isn’t the problem here—it actually outlines fairly convincingly how this point of view may help improve the number of breastfeeding mothers and how long women stick with breastfeeding by adjusting the expectations and ratcheting down the pressure on new moms. No, the problem here, in my opinion, is how this study is being presented in the media. In a quick Google search of this story, the top headlines include:

Breastfeed exclusively for first six months? Surveyed moms say no way

Many Women Say No to Breast-Feeding for 6 Months: Survey

Exclusive breast-feeding may just be too hard, study says

Study of the Day: Breastfeeding for 6 Months is an Unrealistic Goal

If a pregnant or (worse) struggling new mama comes across one of these headlines but, for whatever reason, doesn’t dig deeper to see what the study really says, what impression are they going to have of breastfeeding? Will they throw up their hands and quit before even trying?

I don’t think anyone could or would argue against breastfeeding being the best option, but new moms are a fragile bunch (at least I was) and a little sensitivity and responsibility on the part of the media could go a long way toward the public’s perception of this and other breastfeeding studies. I understand that headlines need to be sensational and grab the reader’s attention, but they should also give a glimpse of accuracy.

What do you think—will this study and the way it is being portrayed in the media help or hinder breastfeeding in America?