Today I’m gonna talk about what it’s like to be a poor fat kid on the free lunch program. Grab a snack, sit down, and let’s take a trip down memory lane… [Trigger warning for disordered eating and medical ignorance.]
That feeling when free breakfast & lunch are your only two guaranteed meals but nobody believes you because you’re fat is not good. You see, people have this idea that all fat people are fat because all we do is eat 24/7. Fat kids, fat teens, fat adults, doesn’t matter. (Side note: I don’t care if you are fat because you overeat, you still deserve respect.)
They don’t believe that fat people can be malnourished. They don’t believe that some people don’t get 3 meals a day. They believe we’re simply gluttonous assholes who eat everything put in front of us. Adults believe these things. They say these things out loud. Those ideas get transferred to their children. Their children then turn out to be tiny fucking terrors to fat children in their schools.
Now, because people think we’re just greedy, they don’t believe fat children are deserving of the free lunch program. When I was a kid, I’d literally have other kids wondering why I was eating lunch because I was fat so I obviously wasn’t hungry, right? I was fat so I obviously wasn’t skipping meals, right? I was simply being a little greedy fuck and that free lunch should go to someone more deserving.
What they didn’t see was me going home to the homeless shelter every day. What they didn’t see was me and my mom waiting in line at the soup kitchen for lunch on the weekends. What they didn’t see was, after we finally got in at public housing, us trying to make those food stamps last the whole month. What they didn’t see was me getting a job at fucking 13 to help bring in some cash.
Breakfast and lunch at school were, at one point, the only meals I knew I’d get regularly. Because of all of the teasing about my eating habits though, I began to skip meals. I cut out breakfast entirely and I’d only eat lunch around every other day. You see, all that teasing about my eating habits stuck. I’d not eat until I was starving, finally eat and feel guilty, and then not eat again til I was starving. It was a vicious cycle. A vicious cycle that didn’t make me lose weight so when I finally told my doctor, she didn’t believe me.
Everyone around me actually congratulated me on the fucked up eating habits because once again, fat. Throughout all of this I was still on the free lunch program, but I didn’t take advantage of it because I believed I wasn’t deserving of it. Other people didn’t think I deserved it (and told me this!) because I was a greedy fat kid so I began to believe I was a greedy fat kid.
My story is not an outlier. Talk to fat kids. Talk to fat people who used to be fat kids. Fat shaming takes a toll. It takes an even more dangerous toll when the kids you’re fat shaming are poor and don’t have secure access to food. You’re telling kids to starve themselves. If you take away the free lunch program, these kids will have no choice but to starve. I’m sure that’ll make a lot of people happy because fat kids not eating has to equal healthy skinny kids, right??? Except no. It equals starving kids. Kids deserve free access to good food. I’m of the opinion that everybody does, but that’s a radical opinion nowadays.
TL;DR: It’s tough being a poor fat kid on the free lunch program because everyone believes you don’t deserve it, but you do. Every kid deserves breakfast and lunch and taking away the free lunch program will cause kids (fat, skinny, and in-between) to starve. While we’re giving kids free lunch, we need to get rid of the stigma around fat people eating. (And yes there is stigma there.) Fat people, fat kids, are not less deserving of food just because they’re fat.