No Such Thing as a Free Lunch? 

Like most people of her generation, my grandmother had a lot of perspectives born out of the Great Depression. I remember her telling me once about Christmas in the early-'30s, when she and her sisters were overjoyed to get an orange and a pencil in their stockings. She also had more than a few stories about the grocery store her parents ran—and at which she worked—through much of her childhood in rural northern Idaho.

That Americans like my grandma, who entered adulthood in the 1940s and raised families through the middle of the 20th century, would be sensitive to ideas of deprivation doesn't come as a surprise. Nor is it hard to grasp why they would look to government to ensure their fellow citizens—especially the young and the old—were provided with at least a minimum level of support.

Out of those Depression era beliefs, the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act was enacted by President Harry S. Truman in 1945 for two reasons: as a way to support farmers and provide school kids with food during the school day. Almost 30 years later, in 1974, Meals on Wheels America was established to give senior citizens access to home-delivered food. Supported by the Older Americans Act, passed by Congress in 1965, Meals on Wheels has since become a lifeline for millions of people who suffer from limited mobility or poverty.

School lunches and Meals on Wheels have been targeted by President Donald Trump, whose budget proposals include axing government support for both programs. In Idaho, numerous experts say that would be a disaster. Among the shocking statistics reported by Boise Weekly News Editor George Prentice in this week's paper, as many as 83,110 school age kids in Idaho are considered "food insecure," making the meals provided at school their most dependable. About half of all Idaho public school students qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches and, in some rural districts, that number can be higher than 90 percent. Meals on Wheels, meanwhile, delivers hot meals each day to 800 seniors in Ada County alone.


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