After a far-right Republican state lawmaker claimed there are no hungry people in Minnesota because he hasn't met any, then voted against a free school lunch program, extremely conservative pundit Ben Shapiro, considered a right wing “thought leader,” weighed in, declaring Child Protective Services – not free school lunches – is the solution.
He's getting highly criticized.
Appearing to be reading a question from a supporter, Shapiro said: "If government can protect kids from the sick radical left shouldn't they also protect kids from hunger? Wouldn't it make sense to strengthen food stamps and have school lunch be free since some kids are in school lunch debt?"
"Well," Shapiro responded, "school lunches are not going to solve the problem of child hunger at any serious level. If there is a problem of children actually starving that is a child endangerment scenario to which CPS needs to be called."
"The truth is it does not take that much money to feed a child. I know I have three of them," he added.
Shapiro wasn't finished. He later went on to attack U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), who had called the right wing pundit's remarks "dumb."
"Let’s do math," Congressman Lieu had offered. "Say a kid should eat 21 meals a week. School lunches provide 5 of those meals, solving nearly one-fourth of the problem. That’s pretty good. Oh and how about you miss one of your meals five days a week and see how you feel," he added.
Shapiro responded by saying, "Dear Ted: if you think the key thing standing between kids and starvation is school lunch, that's silly. If a child is on the verge of starvation, you must call CPS [Child Protective Services], not spend hundreds of millions on disproportionately unhealthy lunches, a huge percentage of which are discarded."
Physician and professor Howard Forman told Shapiro, "There is pretty good data on this," meaning the impact of free school lunches. "Why not accept that it's a damn good program that helps many at low cost," he asked.
Dr. Forman quoted from this study, writing: "...we find evidence that the receipt of free and reduced-price lunches improves the health outcomes of children."
Forman also quoted from the study, adding: "we find that the program reduces food insecurity by at least 6%, poor health by at least 33%, and obesity by at least 21%."
A Twitter account named "Fosters4Futures" which tweets about foster children, blasted Shapiro's privilege:
"I understand your perspective is entirely rooted in having had the luxury of stability in your life, but I will assure you, when I was starving as a child, the food served for free to poverty level kids was the only food I ate, DURING SCHOOL MONTHS good luck on summer. And I'd steal school food to take home to my baby sister I'm so glad you had a regular source of food as a child that in your mind you think kids aren't going hungry."
Michael O’Brien, MD, a pediatrician, responded to the video of Shapiro and wrote: "The same pundits and activists targeting the LGBTQ community, drag queens, and books — in the name of ‘protecting kids’ — don’t give a damn about childhood hunger. 1 in 7 kids in South Carolina suffer from chronic hunger, and universal school lunch would change lives."
Dr. O'Brien added: "If conservative activists actually gave a damn about kids, they wouldn’t be the ones remaining silent about child marriage, childhood hunger, child abuse (actual child abuse), under funding of public schools, closure of rural pediatric services… Do I need to continue???"
Twitter user Nancy Mathisen asks, "Does Shapiro know that it’s cheaper to feed children an adequate diet through school lunch programs and SNAP, than to send CPS to DO WHAT? Take them away from their families into the foster care system?"
Meg Conley, who writes about the "intersection of women, home, money, and care," says: "Ben’s making one good point here. School lunches aren’t going to cut it. Let’s do school breakfast, school lunch AND a cash benefit for each child. No means testing for any of it."
Health and science reporter Benjamin Ryan sums up Shapiro's stance: "Ben Shapiro does not want the government to engage in one of the most impactful mitigation measures for the deleterious impacts of poverty: providing children with lunch."