Some states and school districts have implemented universal free lunches and other innovative solutions to mitigate the end of the federal food program that provided meals to all K-12 students throughout the pandemic.
School Lunch Burden Falls to Families
As children all over America head back to class, many families are struggling to afford the rising cost of school meals.
Like most businesses and households around the country, school cafeterias are also impacted by rising food costs from sky-high inflation, continued supply chain issues, and labor shortages.
In Prince George’s County, Maryland — home to one of the largest school districts in the U.S. — officials say the cost of food and supplies for their schools has increased between 12 to 20% on average just in the last two years.
The district is also around 200 employees short, meaning they will have to buy more pre-packaged foods, further driving up costs.
The trend is nationwide: according to TIME, in some districts, the cost of lunch may be close to $5 a day. That comes out to $900 over the course of a school year and is nearly twice as much as it cost just a few years ago in 2017.
But with rising food prices, many schools may have no choice but to pass those expenses off to parents who may already be struggling to make ends meet, raising further concerns about nutrition, especially for low-income districts.
The financial crunch also comes as a pandemic-era program that removed income requirements for lunches and allowed all students access to free food has expired. Experts say that an additional 10 million children were given free lunches under the program, but now, millions of families will have to pay.
With the conclusion of the federal program, some jurisdictions have found ways to ensure kids do not go hungry.
Last summer, California became the first state to pass a law mandating free school lunches for all K-12 students regardless of income. Shortly after, Maine approved a nearly identical law. Both of those programs are set to go into effect in the coming 2022-23 school year.
There are also a number of more localized efforts as well. On Monday, the Auburn School District in Auburn, Washington was approved to participate in a federal program called the Community Eligibility Provision that will provide all students with free breakfasts and lunches through 2026.
Other school districts have also gotten creative with more grassroots solutions, like East Hampton Public Schools in Connecticut, which is working with local vendors to purchase cheaper produce and cut back on supply chain issues.
One official with the district described to TIME how much money can be saved on day-to-day items like apples, which are $35 a case from a local farm. Previously, the school spent nearly twice as much — $65 with their former vendor.
Some districts have also launched efforts to make their own meals instead of using pre-made items, like baking bread from scratch or growing their own produce. Others are making the matter a topic of education, including the Glendale Elementary School District in Arizona, which has outlined plans to educate kids and families about food waste and how to minimize it.
See what others are saying: (TIME) (WCNC Charlotte) (ABC News)
Privacy Concerns Rise in Florida Over Menstruation Questions on Digital Student-Athlete Physicals
Ever since the overturn of Roe V. Wade, activists have been concerned about how period tracking data can be used against women.
Outrage and Concerns
Florida schools require student-athletes to complete an annual physical evaluation form before being allowed to participate in sports, including questions about female menstruation. Recently, school districts have shifted these forms into a digital format using a third party, causing privacy concerns for parents and activists alike.
As headlines started to circulate the news, many online began expressing outrage. Lawyer Pam Keith, who ran for U.S. House of Representatives in 2020 referred to Florida as a “police state for women” on Tuesday morning. Other tweets have called this practice “dystopian” and “tramping on women’s rights.”
In Florida, these questions have been on the student-athlete physical evaluation form for approximately 20 years. Now that some school districts have shifted from paper copies to digital formatting with the third-party software company, Aktivate, criticisms have resurfaced across the state. Abortion rights activists, in particular, are worried about menstrual information being used to prosecute someone for getting an abortion. Others vocally oppose storing this information online, citing parents’ rights over their children’s data.
These questions relating to menstruation are labeled as optional on the document. However, some have expressed concern that athletes will feel obligated to answer them in order to ensure their eligibility to play.
Florida schools have all of the medical data collected by these physicals sent back to the district from the physician. This is in sharp contrast to the policy of other states that simply require the physician’s approval for the athlete to be cleared to play.
“I don’t see why school districts need that access to that type of information,” pediatrician Dr. Michael Haller said to The Florida Times-Union. “It sure as hell will give me pause to fill it out with my kid.”
See what others are saying: (Forbes) (The Palm Beach Post) (The Florida Times-Union)
Navy SEAL Recruits Sprayed With Tear Gas in “Horrific” Leaked Video
The revelation comes after the Navy launched an investigation into SEAL training practices last month in response to the death of a recruit.
The Worst Birthday Ever
In September 2021, Navy SEAL recruits were forced to sing “happy birthday” while standing amid a thick cloud of tear gas as part of their training, a leaked video reveals.
The footage, which was obtained by investigative reporter Mathew Cole and published by CBS News, comes from California’s San Clemente Island, where SEALs are trained.
For over a minute, instructors are seen dousing the recruits in the chemical, sometimes from just inches away, as they struggle to sing. Reports say they were singing so that they could not hold their breath, which regulations incidentally warn may cause a person to pass out.
Although exposure to tear gas is a common right of passage for military recruits, who must learn how to properly don a face mask, it is meant to be sprayed from six feet away to prevent burns and last for no longer than 15 seconds.
The recruits in the video are seen coughing, heaving, and crying out in agony after the gas subsides, and one appears to pass out.
A Navy admiral has reportedly launched an investigation into the video to determine whether the instructors sprayed the gas for too long and from too close, and if they did, whether they were simply unaware of the proper procedure or intended to abuse and punish the recruits, which could be a criminal offense.
Cole wrote in a Twitter thread that he showed the footage to current and retired senior SEAL officers, who described the exercise as “horrific,” “abusive,” “pointless” and “near torture.”
“Current and former SEAL students say they were told the purpose of the exercise, which cause extreme pain, was to simulate how they would react to bullet wounds in combat,” he said. “They were told by BUD/S instructors it was a ‘rite of passage’ and given three attempts to complete it.”
The Death of Kyle Mullen
“The source who provided the video did so because they wanted the Navy, Congress and the public to know that the February 2022 death of Kyle Mullen was not an isolated incident,” Cole Continued.
Mullen was a 24-year-old Navy recruit who arrived in California for the SEALs rigorous selection course in January. In his third week, he reached what’s known as Hell Week, a five-day-long slog through an infamously brutal training regiment that’s killed at least 11 men since 1953.
Trainees spend at least 20 hours per day doing physical exercises, running a total of more than 200 miles, and are allowed just four hours of sleep across the entire week.
Hell Week is meant to test a recruit’s mental and physical resilience, as well as their commitment to becoming a Navy SEAL. Critics, however, argue it is excessively harsh, pointing to the concussions, broken bones, dangerous infections, and near drownings suffered by some recruits.
When Mullen completed Hell Week, he called his mother Regina, who told CBS News her son seemed to be having trouble breathing.
A few hours later, he died with the official cause being pneumonia, which Regina attributed to the freezing water he was submerged in during training.
She also said he admitted to using banned performance-enhancing drugs, something many aspiring SEALs resort to so they can cross the finish line.
Even with drugs, however, around 90% of trainees fail to complete the selection course, with most dropping out during Hell Week.
The same day Kyle died, one of his fellow trainees had to be intubated, and two more were hospitalized.
The Navy launched an investigation into the SEALs selection course last month in response to Kyle’s death.
See what others are saying: (CBS) (NBC) (The New York Times)
Lawyer Claims That LAPD Officer Who Died In Training Was Targeted For Investigating Other Officers For Rape
The late officer’s family has filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles.
Press Conference Reveals New Allegations
A lawyer for the family of Los Angeles Police officer Houston Tipping, who died in May during a training exercise, claimed on Monday that Tipping was targeted for reporting an alleged sexual assault by four other police officers last year.
In May, Tipping sustained serious injury — including a broken spine — during training, which resulted in his death three days later. The LAPD released a statement saying his injuries came from a fall taken during a segment of training that involved grappling another officer.
His family, however, filed a complaint — and later a lawsuit — against the city of Los Angeles. The lawsuit states that Tipping was, “repeatedly struck in the head severely enough that he bled.”
During a Monday press conference, his family’s lawyer, Bradley Gage, claimed that the injuries Tipping sustained could not have been the result of grappling.
“There is no way grappling would have caused those kinds of injuries the way the LAPD portrays it,” he said. “What would cause those injuries is if somebody picked a person up, slams them down onto their head and their neck onto a hard surface.”
An Alleged Cover-Up
According to Gage, an officer that Tipping had reported last year for an alleged sexual assault was also present at this training exercise.
“The allegation is that in July of 2021, four police officers were involved in the sexual assault of a woman from the Los Angeles area. A report was taken by Officer Tipping,” he said. “And the female victim claimed that she was raped by four different people, all LAPD officers. She knew the names of some of those officers because they were in uniform and had their name tags on. The name of one of those officers, with the name tag, seems to correlate with the names of one of the officers that was at the bicycle training”
The attorney went on to confirm that he is alleging this unnamed officer is responsible for Tipping’s injuries.
Later in the press conference, Gage stated that the police department is likely trying to cover-up these misdeeds.
“I’m sure that these actions are being covered-up. The thought of a code of silence or a cover-up by a police department should not be shocking or surprising to anyone,” he said.
Although the initial lawsuit by Tipping’s family included the wrongful death and other civil rights violations, with this new information, the family and the attorney has decided to file a supplemental. This supplemental will cover the whistler blower retaliation, destruction of evidence, and the initial wrongdoing of the rape case.