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Paul Ryan: ‘Poor Kids Do Not Want Free School Lunch, They Want Their Parents to Care’

At Thursday’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meeting, former GOP Vice-Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan (R-WI) took to the podium to tell poor parents that they do not need financial support to feed their kids. Apparently, what they really need to do is care.

In a speech where he ironically berated the left for being “out of touch,” Ryan said that problem with the left strategies of food stamps and federally supported free lunch programs was that it offered Americans, “a full stomach and an empty soul.”

He then told the (at least) third-hand story that he learned from a fellow Republican who serves in the cabinet of “buddy Governor Scott Walker” to illustrate why a young child would rather not have a nutritious free lunch at school.

According to Ryan, this young child from a very poor family did not want to be provided with food at school. “He didn’t want a free lunch,” Ryan insisted to the audience. “He wanted his own lunch, one in a brown paper bag, just like the other kids.”

He added that the reason the child did not want to have a free lunch was because it proved he did not have parents that cared. “He wanted one [a brown paper bag lunch]”, Ryan continued, “because he knew a kid with a brown paper bag had someone who cared for him. This is what the left does not understand.”

Yet, while Ryan’s little-boy-lost yarn may be compelling Republican rhetoric, it does not jive with the reality of the school lunch program today. Nearly 30 million children participate in a school lunch program on a daily basis from all income levels and, as recent news demonstrates, parents of school lunch kids seem to care a lot.

Parents were outraged when a school in Utah threw away their kids lunch due to overdue bills and in Texas, a dad and school volunteer even paid for other kids’  lunches because he cared so much that all kids, especially those of hard-working parents on reduced lunch, had a chance to eat and succeed in school.

“These are elementary school kids,”  Texas Dad Kenny Thompson said when he paid off the bills of school lunch kids so they could enjoy a hot school meal and get back to thinking about school. “They don’t need to be worried about finances. They need to be worried about what grade they got in spelling.” 



Photo Credit: Screenshot/CPAC speech







About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.

  • Ryan is an idiot. The fact is that the school lunch programs work. And they are still needed.

    • That was the most stupid thing I ever read in my life!!!!!!

    • lowellhighmom

      No,he is noy an idiot. He is a thoughtless, clueless, just plain mean jacka$$.

      • Eady Trice Morgan

        And idiot

  • Paul Ryan should show us he care and not take his salary!

  • bryteyes44

    I have to comment on this one…I have no idea whether or not the families are caring or not, but as a high school school lunch lady I find that the ones who complain the most about the food and/or do not eat it are the ones who get free or reduced lunch. They are the ones who don’t want to take the required 3rd component that is required by government mandate (this is usually a fruit or vegetable) or the one’s at breakfast that drink the juice out of their breakfast kit and toss the rest. Is this why kids are not doing well in school? I don’t know but if a good meal is supposed to help keep a child on track and keep the brain active, then maybe it is! I have also worked in elementary school where they have what is called pre-pack where all the cold food is in one container and all the hot gets heated together. Some of the schools are 90% free or reduced and many children toss the complete meal and others maybe eat one item and toss the rest. So tell me how our tax dollars are filling these children’s stomach when 3/4 of the food and the containers are going into our limited landfill!!!

    • wifenum2

      Everyone should try and just do their job and keep busy doing their job to the best of their ability. You and I do not get paid to keep track of this type of information. I have learned long ago to worry about the job I am doing and let it go at that.

    • Eady Trice Morgan

      It would help if most of that food was edible. That’s the experience you have at your school but I know that many children across this country take full advantage of the free lunch program.

      • bryteyes44

        I’m so glad to hear it!!!The funny thing you say about the food being inedible though–now 90% of our food is processed, already prepared frozen food that all we do is take it from the box and cook it! The kids prefer that though to the few things we do make from scratch such as Rotini bake or Spaghetti. Ever watch Jamie Oliver and how he had children see what chicken nuggets were made of and the processing of them and how the kids still wanted to eat them and preferred them over baked chicken? I definitely wish we could go back to making all the food–just the smell of homemade bread brought people in requesting a piece!

    • connlyfox

      Most of these kids are made to be embarrassed by the lunch ladies and the other kids because I have worked in the schools and heard some of the comments from the lunch ladies, yea ladies like you! These kids get tired of hearing the snide comments like wonder if they are gonna throw it away today or they don’t deserve it cause their gonna throw it any way or then there is the I’m tired of paying for these poor kids meals when their parents could get a job, if I could hear ya walking around with them or around athe room what do you think the small kids can hear. Children do exactly as they hear themselves being told to do…..they don’t deserve lunch lady mentality…..

      • bryteyes44

        I hear you on that one and hate to say that you are correct although I try not to be one of them. I keep my opinions to myself and treat all the kids equally and actually enjoy conversing with them. I feel there is a time and place to voice those types of opinions and in front of the children is not it!

  • Martha Lacy

    What an ignorant, stupid thing to say. Out of touch? Definitely. At a time when some parents are working 2/3 jobs to just pay rent and depending on the kindness of others such as food pantries, to feed their families, this is insane!!! And this from a republican who opposes a raise in minimum wage!!! Absolutely ludicrous!!! He shoudl be embarrsed.

    • GaLiberal

      Why should my tax dollars be used for these lazy people who are clearly living above their means. What about personal responsibility and smaller government? These people need to buck up and STOP BEING POOR! I’m outraged I tell you. OUTRAGED!

  • bryteyes44

    Oh, and by the way…I got free lunch as a kid, but I was embarrassed to show that I had a lunch ticket. Kids these days are proud that they are free and make fun of those who pay full price. Also kids expect to get a free lunch just by turning in their application. High school kids (and many of their parents) have no concept that a free lunch is received determined by the parent/guardian’s income! What a sad, sad world we live in!!!
    Paul Ryan is so right when he says our food stamps and free programs have gotten out of hand. I say if a person is capable of working they should-even for their welfare and food stamps! Children in schools need extra help or to be read to, our streets and parks need trash removed or snow shovelled, public buildings could use painting or a construction overhaul, etc. etc.

    • Debra Ranson

      man you people are clueless and heartless

      • bryteyes44

        There is nothing heartless about it and since I work in the schools, I am definitely NOT clueless! Why should any able person be given a free ride that someone else has to pay for? I feel for the kids who are truly hungry, but most of the people who get free lunch also have food stamps, so the children should not be hungry-except like I said they throw away 3/4 of their free lunch! And don’t tell me that people do not receive enough food stamps because although some don’t, I have seen peoiple trying to sell me their Quest cards (instead of providing for their family), buying expensive foods that even I bypass or not willing to shop at value stores or generic brands.

        • Eady Trice Morgan

          Yes you are clueless. I find you to be very ironically, funny.

        • Cindy Kaes Neal

          Have you ever tried to live on food stamps? If not, Shut the …. up! You people are boring.

          • bryteyes44

            I actually did live on food stamps for a while and I received loans for college and did make better of myself! I have a teaching degree and taught until my kids went to school and then stayed home to raise them until both were in school when I got the food service job which worked well time-wise. My family of 6 lived on $75/week after my parents divorced (we did not have food stamps either at that time) and I basically paid for my own clothes and livelyhood as a teenager…so yes I have been there and feel I have the right to comment!

    • Marty

      bryteyes44 you are so right …The biggest problem is our government is expecting that we pay for the nice places and big salaries and nice retirements and Healthcare. So you tell me the difference between what Ryan said and the so called poor people. The poor don’t get what they want and congressman or politicians get what they want by voting for there pay increases and nice benefits.

      • bryteyes44

        Yes, our whole government system is screwed up and it’s not one party over the other!

  • Debra Ranson

    what a stupid freak

  • Tiajuana seemynuts

    How the hell did Eddie Munster get elected?

  • Evelyn Radford

    When he dies there’s going to be a special place he’s going!
    Suffer not little children…….

  • Judy Aldrich

    Anyone who votes for this man has to be an absolute idiot.

  • connlyfox

    I just can’t stand this thing that calls himself a human because it is not a man of any standard! I feel so sorry for his children and understand why he is not desired to be in his church of christians in Janesville. I wanted to say all kinds of foul words to this thing when I was done reading this article. This is yet another of the Rethuglicans thinking they could be a President of this Country who would have to have each and every person in mind, with this kind of thoughts I can not imagine him being someone who would make any kind of person to consider the whole country each day as he rose in the morning. Nor do I imagine any poor child being ever invited to the White House if some one like this was ever living in it! DISGUSTING!

  • JellicleCat60

    The level of STUPID in the RePUKEliCON and Teanderthal parties has reached fever pitch..I don’t think any of these whack jobs could get any more stupid!!! SHEESH

  • Evelyn Radford

    I just want to do the meanest thing to him, like throw up in his face!