Free and reduced judgment

Finances should not determine social standing


Angela Valle

Photo illustration.

Story by Katie Dusek, staff writer

Middle schoolers suck.

These infamous preteen monsters are notorious for picking apart your biggest insecurities and feeding off of them.

What you wear, how you talk, and most importantly, how much money you have are all factors that come into play when determining your social status.

As high school approaches, people’s perceptions are still tied closely to your family’s yearly income. On the first day of school, packets are handed out with the title of “Free and Reduced Lunch.” As the packets slide across the desks, whispers fill the room.

“Who actually has to get on this plan?”

“Is anyone really this poor?”

I sink back into my chair as the snickers dance around my head. I feel as if I have a large red sign on my head blinking the word “POOR.”

It is apparent that my family is not placed on the privileged side of the income scale. Yes, I actually have to get on this plan. Yes, I am really that poor. I have been on the free and reduced lunch for as long as I can remember. It never seemed like a big deal to me until I realized that most of my peers didn’t need government help to live.

To be on the free and reduced lunch list, your family has to make lower than the average income. Once on the list, the student receives free lunches, free ACTs and reduced AP tests, as well as many other benefits.

These are set in place so that children in lower income families can still succeed in school regardless of what their parents make.

There is a negative stigma attached to being on the free and reduced lunch. For one, it is assumed that your family is “lazy” or “uneducated.” People don’t think twice about what might be really going on behind closed doors and just presume instead.

My family, for one, is made up of two retired grandparents. The only source of income we receive is the retirement money that my grandparents get from the years of work they did. My family is not uneducated or lazy, but we are struggling with money.

The issue with these assumptions is that it makes people who struggle with making ends meet feel worse about themselves and their situations. There is nothing wrong with not having a lot of money. It doesn’t make you less of a human being.