This week from Charleston
I am finally home and playing a lot of catch up. The challenge with any part-time legislature is balancing work life and public service. The majority of legislators have jobs outside of their legislative service. Any citizen legislature is generally well served by legislators bringing their real world experience to debate public policy. I serve with bus drivers, surveyors, doctors, restaurant owners, nurses and people who go back to jobs where they get dirt under their nails. One of the most important things we can do is to listen to the legislators from their diverse backgrounds.
As I look back at the session, one of the most disappointing moments occurred in the House debate about “Feed to Achieve,” bill sponsored by Senator Unger. Feed to Achieve will allow all counties to try to provide breakfast and lunch without any charge to children. It is a landmark bill designed to reduce the stigma associated with free or reduced cost lunches. It is a fantastic bill that passed the House 89-9 with broad bipartisan support. The disappointing moment was when Del. Ray Canterbury (R-Greenbrier) said during floor debate: “I think it would be a good idea if perhaps we had the kids work for their lunches: trash to be taken out, hallways to be swept, lawns to be mowed, make them earn it.” He went on to say about children that “If they miss a lunch or they miss a meal they might not, in that class that afternoon, learn to add, they may not learn to diagram a sentence, but they’ll learn a more important lesson.”
As one can imagine, many people were shocked by his statements. I was one of them. Something like Feed to Achieve addresses a real problem in West Virginia. In Jefferson County we actually have a large number of kids who would qualify for free lunch, but do not receive it. I am heartened that the Jefferson County delegation all voted for the bill. Unfortunately, Berkeley County Delegates Folk, Householder, Kump and Overington all voted against the bill. There should have been no question that we need do everything we can to erase childhood hunger and feed our kids.