Tea Party Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) anecdote criticizing government school lunch programs was apparently lifted from a book about an encounter between a student and a private benefactor.
Wonkette reported on Thursday that Ryan’s remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Thursday regarding a “young boy from a very poor family” relying on “a government program” for his lunches was strikingly similar to the premise of the book An Invisible Thread, which recounted author Laura Schroff’s 1986 meeting with an 11-year-old “homeless panhandler” named Maurice, who was receiving lunches through a school program.
Schroff wrote that she offered Maurice a choice between giving him enough money for a week, or taking him to a supermarket to buy him enough food to cover the same amount of time. The book then detailed this exchange:
“If you make me lunch,” he said, “will you put it in a brown paper bag?”
I didn’t really understand the question. “Do you want it in a brown paper bag?” I asked. “Or how would you prefer it?”
“Miss Laura,” he said, “I don’t want your money. I want my lunch in a brown paper bag.”
“Okay, sure. But why do you want it in a bag?”
“Because when I see kids come to school with their lunch in a paper bag, that means someone cares about them. Miss Laura, can I please have my lunch in a paper bag?”
Maurice and Schroff subsequently began meeting for lunch every Monday, developing a family-like relationship, which they discussed on Fox News host Mike Huckabee’s show in January 2013.
“Here I was, and this 11-year-old kid was teaching me things,” Schroff told Huckabee. “He taught me the definition of lunch in a paper bag. The bag is only brown paper. But what you put into it is something we all call love.”
On Thursday, Ryan recounted nearly the exact same story, attributing it to Wisconsin Department of Children and Families Director Eloise Anderson, who was appointed by Gov. Scott Walker (R). But Ryan said it was Anderson who met a young student who told her he did not want a lunch from a government program, but one served in a brown paper bag.
“He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown paper bag had someone who cared for him,” Ryan said. “This is what the left does not understand.”
Another Tea Party lawmaker, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), attracted criticism in November 2013 after he was caught stealing passages from Wikipedia during his speeches. Transcripts of the speeches in question were also found to have been pulled from his website after the accusations.
Update, 10:06 p.m. EST: At the time of their appearance on Huckabee’s show, Schrock and Maurice promoted the Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry campaign. Two months later, the campaign released a statement opposing Ryan’s House budget proposal, which included cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) Program by $125 million.
“It’s important to remember that half of all SNAP participants are children, and the program provides a critical role in making sure that, even when their families face tough economic times, children are still able to get the healthy food they need,” Senior Manager of National Allies Lucy Melcher wrote. “SNAP is one of our nation’s most effective anti-poverty programs and cuts like those included in this budget proposal will leave millions of children without access to the food they need to thrive.”
Watch Schroff and Maurice’s interview with Huckabee, as aired in January 2013, below.