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Idaho Lawmaker Wants Children to Work for Those Free Lunches

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

Idaho state Rep. Ron Mendive thinks his state’s school kids should have to sweat for their pizza squares and chicken nuggets.

“If we could find a way for the students to work to earn credits for their school lunch, I don’t think we’d see any of the waste we do in that program because it doesn’t mean much,” he said during an education committee meeting on Tuesday.

Mendive did not say whether he envisioned first graders sweeping floors or wiping down tables to pay for meals. He also did not indicate how he would get around Idaho child labor laws, which say children must be at least 14 for non-agricultural work. The law is supposed to be enforced by local school boards as well as by probation officers.

But as someone with a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union Foundation, Mendive is not a man constrained by reason. He has also declared that if you support abortion rights, that means you also support prostitution—as both are “a woman’s choice.” He contended that it is ”a double standard” to say otherwise.

“Prostitution is a choice, more so than an abortion would be,” he added. “No one is forced into that.”

When it comes to COVID, Mendive has deemed hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin to be superior to the jab. He invokes the Almighty when opposing vaccine mandates.

"Your personal relationship to the God of creation is not something everybody else should be able to inquire about,” he said.

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As a member of the education committee, Mendive was party to a successful effort to strip climate change from the curriculums in Idaho schools. He also joined like-minded legislators in opposing a $6 million federal early education grant intended for working parents with children aged 5 and under. Mendive and his fellow loonies contended that the grant’s real intent was to indoctrinate preschoolers with critical race theory.

Mendive has now outdone himself by proposing kids work in order to eat at school. He did not respond to messages at his office in the Capitol and at his Coeur d’Alene home seeking explanation. He apparently believes that with a little pre-lunch drudgery on top of their studies, youngsters are going to tell themselves, “I had to work for this sloppy Joe!”

Back in the summer of 2017, a 6-year-old constituent named Amiah Van Hill in the Coeur d’Alene School District decided that she would work to pay for other kids’ meals. Amiah’s mother, Rachel Van Hill, had read to her a news story about a Seattle man who had raised money to pay the school lunch debts of children in his area.

“She’s like, ‘That’s amazing, I wish I could do that for kids and their lunches at my school…What can I do to raise money?’” the mother recalled.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Amiah Van Hill at her "Lemonade for Lunch" stand.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Courtesy of Van Hill Family</div>

Amiah Van Hill at her "Lemonade for Lunch" stand.

Courtesy of Van Hill Family

Amiah answered her own question by setting up a lemonade stand outside her home with a sign that read “LEMONADE 4 LUNCH.” She tapped into a decency that thankfully coexists with the likes of Mendive.

She kept at it and by fall she had raised $23,000. She began the first grade having demonstrated true American greatness.

“She was driven by making sure every kid gets breakfast and lunch,” her mother said. “She really wants to help.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Amiah Van Hill at her "Lemonade for Lunch" stand.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Courtesy of Van Hill Family</div>

Amiah Van Hill at her "Lemonade for Lunch" stand.

Courtesy of Van Hill Family

When the pandemic hit, the federal government began paying for all school breakfasts and lunches. That ended last year, but the meals are still free in the The Coeur d’Alene School District for kids from a single household with an income of $17,667 or less. Those from a single household with an income of $25,142 or less qualify for a reduced price. Otherwise, elementary school kids pay $1.90 for breakfast and $3.15 for lunch. Middle school and high school kids pay $3.50 for lunch and $2.10 for breakfast. Payment is arranged through the parents. The school is careful not to signal in the cafeteria which students are paying and which are not.

“No stigma,” Ed Ducar, the director of nutrition services, told The Daily Beast. “We don’t want to put on stamps or stickers. Just let them go through the line and they’re kids. And that’s a good thing.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Amiah Van Hill with the proceeds from her "Lemonade for Lunch" stand.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Courtesy of Van Hill Family</div>

Amiah Van Hill with the proceeds from her "Lemonade for Lunch" stand.

Courtesy of Van Hill Family

The Coeur d’Alene state representative, Mendive, would like to put the kids in his district—and everywhere else in Idaho—to work in order to eat at school.

But a constituent who is now 12 has another way.

“She wants to do bigger and better things with LEMONADE 4 LUNCH,” Amiah’s mother said on Wednesday. “She wants to inspire other kids.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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