Monday, February 23, 2009

Exasperation

UGH. I get so frustrated with people who do not understand that the concept of 'free' government help is NOT actually free. I listened to an excellent segment on Andrew Wilkow's Sirius Patriot show today and for the first time ever, I was even brave enough to call in lol. Was I a nervous fool? Yes lol. But anyway he had been talking about how when the govt gives money to someone, such as raising taxes to put into programs for others, the people end up footing the bill (yes, even those who accept the program funds). So many do not seem to understand that. Some of Wilkow's examples were if taxes on a business are raised, the business may cut staffing (so someone loses their job), or raise product/services costs (for all consumers including those receiving the benefit money), etc. So I called in to agree and give my example:

Backtrack - about 10 years ago my daycare centre was providing a hot lunch for children every day (our choice), but it was quickly becoming a money drain (higher food cost, minimum wage rose, etc) as well as having to throw out about half of everything made because so many kids did not eat it, no matter what it was. We asked the parents to vote on whether they wanted us to continue hot lunch and they paid a higher fee, or axe hot lunches and they could provide a bag lunch for their children instead. The majority of parents chose BAG lunch - so to further balance with the few who wanted hot lunch, we decided to do hot lunch for everyone on Fridays. It was a diplomatic process where EVERYONE had a say, and EVERYONE benefitted.

Fast forward to today, and the Alberta govt wants to force all centres to provide a hot lunch every day. The only way the daycare can afford that is to charge the parents a higher fee - something they voted against years ago. I called Wilkow to speak on that point, to say that the program is forcing us to do this but it is going to come back on the very people it's supposedly helping - parents.

Someone suggested to me months ago that if a parent wants to pack a bag lunch, that is their choice and maybe the daycare could waive the fee-rise. Problem - we are not allowed to have a two-tier system. We are supposed to charge one price across the board and not have different fees for different services (unless it's simply part time and full time care diferences). So the govt already stopped us there years ago. We cannot have one fee for those who want hot lunch, and one for those who send bagged.

The other choices for the business - cut staff pay (when already only just above minimum wage) or cut into their own profits (which is no more than 20% and more like 5-10% of intake). Staff at my center cannot be let go because we already work at the minimum so at least no one will be fired to help pay for the govt-forced program. But that's about the only thing that is safe.

And just a point to note - which I have mentioned before - the reason the govt is going to dictate this is because some parents do not feed their children properly (do not put enough food groups in their bag lunch or send junk food), so the centers have to pick up the slack. So not only is the govt telling parents they can't be trusted to provide nutrition for their children, it's also telling them that they have to pay the centers more so we can decide what's best for them to eat.

This exact same thing happens in program after program. When I lived in community housing as a single parent, they inspected my home more often than a landlord would. But they didn't just check for any damage, they would look at the general upkeep of my home to make sure I wasn't letting my kids live in squandor. If you sign up for these programs, you can be at their mercy for all sorts of intrusive inquiries which are actually AGAINST YOUR RIGHTS!!! It took me 4 years to find out from a lawyer friend that information the housing agency asked me for was NOT within their rights to ask for. How do govt programs get away with this stuff anyway?

So just think about these 'free' programs or govt involvement and decide how much of it you think is actually good. Even if 85% of parents feed their kids properly every day, everyone is going to pay real cash for the 15% that don't. Why is that fair? What if I don't want my child to have a big hot lunch every day and then not eat supper when they come home later? I still have to pay the higher fee because the GOVT forced it, not the center. It takes away choices people, it really does, and you have to open your eyes to that before it's too late.

***UPDATE to my long winded rant: I attended a meeting at the school today to discuss nutritional needs. The School Board has passed some new rules taking all junk foods out of the schools. That includes not doing any more chocolate bar fundraisers, etc. That's $10,000 a year gone from our school's funds right off the top, let alone other fundraisers like Cookie Dough, or schools that do Nutter's Trays, etc. Anyway, it also includes any classroom parties, special events etc that parents donate food to - no junk allowed. So if my kid is having a birthday, I can't bring in cupcakes to share with the class. I don't normally do that anyway because my kids have summer holiday bdays (woohoo!), but still - the board said they can't dictate what parents are sending their children in their lunches, but it really is dictating some parental choices by axeing anything not on the canada food guide for all class parties, etc. Teachers are also not allowed to eat anything not in the Guide for their own lunches because they have to set an example for the kids.

Okay, I get that - but come on seriously? Teacher can't even eat a choco chip cookie on her BREAK in the school? I forsee a lot of teachers and support staff hiding in the bathroom stalls to get a chocolate fix lol. Anyway, I'm not retarded - I 'get' nutrition and eating healthy but there are other consequences to this as well. The high schools operate cafeterias (along with one elementary). These are fundraisers in themselves but they can no longer serve a heap of stuff on their menu. If high school kids can't get what they want, they will just head over to the stores instead. The cafeterias (one for sure that I know of) are actually staffed by an outside service, so if they do not wish to conform to the board's new policy, they will just pull out. What happens for funds now? We got given a big list of Fundraising Ideas but it looked like something you pull off the net - Game Show Nights, etc. Those are all a lot of work to set up, and very little in return for funds. Since schools have had programs cut left and right, some of these chocolate bar fundraisers, etc, are their bread and butter. We can send the whole Grade 6 class to camp for less than what we make in those 'non-nutritional' fundraisers. And many teachers have been at this for 30 years and have already 'been there done that' several times with other types of fundraisers and know what works and what doesn't. Almost every idea in the big Healthy Eating Fundraiser Ideas falls into the 'doesn't' category.

My thoughts are, the choco bars are not sold to students to eat in the school, they take them home and sell to friends and family who wish to buy them for eating at home or work. Very few of the bars come back in kids' lunches because for one thing, the bars are big and cost $3 each. My point is, they are not being injested on school property very often, and if parents are supposed to have the right to decide what their children eat, why is the school board forcing the end to these fund raisers? We were also given a huge list of approved items to include for things like hot dog day (which is run by Grade 6 volunteer parents -me included), because we aren't allowed to do bags of chips anymore. We also have to change to whole wheat buns - get ready to see the garbage cans over-flowing.

Again, I understand about nutrition and the school's role in being a good example and setting kids on their way to eating right, but I remember the principal's words today when he told me the board can't tell parents what to put in lunches, so they will tell us what to serve at school. I told him what is happening at the daycare and that for years already we have been told we CANNOT let the kids eat candies, chips, chocolate, etc from their own lunch bags. We have to leave the item in there with a note to parents explaining we cannot serve them and to please not send unhealthy items anymore. He looked very surprised, to know that the govt actually IS dictating what goes in a packed lunch in other sectors of childrens' services. I thought it was best to give him a head's up in case it comes in the future. Because a few people don't feed their children 'properly', everyone has to conform.

1 comment:

  1. I so agree RA. Unfortunately we as people from Alberta are a bunch of sheep. When the spin doctors make the golden Kool-aid we as sheep run to the trough looking for every ounce! So it is so important for people like yourself, and the person on the radio you had mentioned, to tell people that there is more than the Kool-aid. Also at what cost is that golden nector costing us. Stand for something or you will fall for everything!

    ReplyDelete

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