Message from the Superintendent


November 10, 2015

Dear Colleagues:

I would learn two weeks later when mom got home that she had left a note and a $20.00 bill clipped to a message minder by the refrigerator.  The note was explaining she was going to be gone with a friend for two weeks and the money was to use if I needed to buy food.  I had made the message minder in Cub Scouts; it was basically a clothes pin mounted on a small dowel with a square wooden base.  In the days way before smart phones, a person simply wrote a note and clipped it into the “message minder” and placed it where one would see it.  However, in this case, the note and all were too heavy and the message minder with all attached had fallen between the kitchen counter and refrigerator.

Thus, as a seventh grader, it was a bit odd to come home from school and find the house empty with no idea where mom was at the time.  My older siblings were already launched.  So for what would eventually become a couple weeks in duration, I was taking care of the house, our dog, myself, and going to school.  At the time, I was actually pretty stressed about the whereabouts of mom.  I knew this wasn’t an “okay” parenting situation, but I didn’t want to say anything to anyone as I suspected it would get mom in trouble.  She had experienced enough already in her life and I didn’t want to add to it.   We protect the ones we love, sometimes to a fault. 

In any case, it wasn’t long before the cereal, canned food, and other readily available items were gone.  I wasn’t going to ask any neighbors for food as that would tip them off that mom was not there.  Going to bed and waking up hungry was only at times overshadowed by a growing concern for the whereabouts of mom and wondering how long I should hold out and not say anything to anyone.  It is interesting, the things that fill a person’s mind when something is unknown.  Not knowing can often be worse than knowing, even if the known isn’t a preferred outcome.

When I went to school, I would literally look at the clock at Ephrata junior high school and countdown the hours, then minutes to lunch time.  I didn’t want to run to lunch when it was time, because that might look too desperate and even back in the 1970’s, the “cool” kids didn’t want to look too excited to be eating school lunches.  Still, I walked with great purpose and intentionality to the lunch room to wait in line; and, when the friendly “lunch ladies” as we called them would ask me if I wanted one scoop or two of mashed potatoes with turkey gravy, I wasn’t too shy or proud to say, “two please” and along with the other food on the tray would pretty quickly and efficiently eat everything within minutes.  There was this warm and calm feeling that would overcome me after eating, and a sense that I would live another day, which seems ultra-dramatic in hindsight, but were real emotions at that time.  The odd thing was that I never remember paying for school lunches and I am not sure if I even had a ticket?  Maybe I was on a free or reduced lunch list somewhere?  Somehow, school lunch was taken care of or rather I was taken care of; perhaps the school knew more than I was aware of… in any event, those things were not on my mind those days.  I was hungry and the school lunches were my sole source of nutrition.  I was so thankful to have them! 

The other day, I overheard two elementary aged students talking about the variety of foods they had to choose from in their designer lunch bags with freezer pouches to keep them cold.  They were comparing items and discussing what they were and were not going to eat as provided from their mom who carefully custom made each lunch.  I asked, “what about school lunch?”  They quickly replied, “no way, the cool kids always bring their lunches.”   I didn’t engage them anymore about their lunches.  I was happy that they got to be (in their minds at least) the cool kids, and moreover that they had a parent who would see to it they had lunches.  Perhaps they had a bit over involved parent, still, that is usually better than the absent-while-on-duty parent some kids experience. 

In our schools, we work with students who have never really been hungry and when musing about “what’s for lunch” experience this as a question of choice and selecting from several food options.  In our schools, we also work with students who when musing about “what’s for lunch” experience this as a question of survival and are just relieved to have anything, compared to not eating for that day.

So please accept my sincere thanks to all of you in any role you have in our system, for serving all students regardless of income or opportunities.  Kids don’t get to select their parents or the home they are born into, but we in public schools do get to make some things right in a kids life when they are in our presence, in our schools, and in our care.  What’s for lunch?




Last Modified on November 10, 2015