Open Letter to Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly - Rethink Backpack Distribution Methods, Think About 'Lunch Shaming'

August 17, 2017 |  

As he did last year, Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly will be distributing backpacks and school supplies at next week's well publicized and attended Multi Cultural Festival at Elk Grove Regional Park. While the act of helping families with school supplies is admirable, we suggest Mr. Ly should change the method of distributing to the children and their families.

First, most children have already started classes for the new school year. Had Ly wanted to make this activity more meaningful, he should have done so before classes started.

Given he has two sponsors, who are coincidentally two of the city's largest outside contractors who collect garbage and provide transport service, an earlier distribution time would have been more appropriate. 

Aside from the fact that he is quite late at distributing the supplies paid for by Republic Services (garbage) and MV Transport (bus services), the manner he is doing is inappropriate. Distributing these at the well attended Multi Cultural Festival is not fitting.  

For parents to receive one of the supply kits for their children, they are asked to go to Ly's tent at the multicultural festival and register at 10 a.m. Then, three hours later, the kits will be distributed on a first come first serve basis.

A better way for Ly to distribute the backpack kits is, at a minimum, follow the example of California Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D - Elk Grove) and have a semi-private function for the parents and their children. Cooper did this a couple weeks ago at the Pannel Center, and to make sure the event was meaningful, he took a more wholistic approach and arranged for health screenings and referrals for children.

Although politicians understandably want to be recognized for their outreach, it's in their DNA; they can nonetheless do it discreetly. Ly's distribution of these kits at his tent at the highly visible multi-cultural festival is not only in bad taste, but it could also be a humiliating for the families.

Using families and their children in need for school supplies as political pawns at this event, where the children could encounter other classmates, is undignified. And please, Mr. and Mrs. Ly, if you persist and give the supply kits at the event, do not post pictures of the children and families on your respective Facebook pages.

Coincidentally in today's Sacramento Bee education beat reporter Diana Lambert penned a story on changes in the Elk Grove Unified School District lunch program. Lambert reports that in the past if parents were in arrears on paying for their children's meals, cafeteria staff were instructed to substitute the children's hot meal with a cheese sandwich.

As a result of that policy and the exact nature of the meal supplied - a cheese sandwich - the practice gained the dubious distinction of being dubbed "lunch shaming." No child, especially at school, should be purposely shamed by the institution that is there to serve their needs.

So Mr. Ly, while there is still time to make the logistical changes, we urge you to modify the way you get these needed supplies to the children. As a suggestion, we have heard from the entire Elk Grove City Council what great volunteers Republic Services employees have been in service to the community, so why not enlist their people and or facilities to distribute these in a less visible manner.

Kids and their families should not be used as political props, and please, do not "backpack shame." Remember Mr. Mayor, character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking.

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D.J. Blutarsky said...

EGN needs to back off!

The article implies that Mr. Ly is a publicity hound. I disagree. The fact that his flyer for the event features his own custom-made Mayor's logo (with an Elk jumping over a fence with the ass-end of the elk facing us), means that the Mayor is excited about his job and deserves a full-time salary.

The fact that MV and Republic put up the goods means nothing for the status of their long-standing contract work with the city. Just a coincidence.

And as far as EGUSD is concerned-I cannot believe you WENT there! I mean it was only yesterday that Fox 40 news reported that the Elk Grove High School kid with the rebel flag sewn on the back of his backpack was not causing a disruption and was not violating any district policies. The Sac City school district rep disagreed, but now EGN wants to bring up backpacks and cheese sandwiches!

Look, at least the cheese is high in protein and allows you to discreetly eat your little sandwich in the privacy of say, a bathroom stall. Try bringing a food tray in there!

EGN needs to back off!

Capt. Benjamin Willard said...

Thank you for posting this - it resonates with me on a personal level.

As a high school student in Toledo, Ohio in the mid 60’s I came from what you could mildly describe as a challenging family situation. Nonetheless, I did my best to make the best of the situation.

My family was not penniless, but even in the boom era of the 60’s we had a tough go of things. As a high school student, I was determined to make the best of the situation I could.

My family did not send me to school with a brown bag, much less money to buy lunch. Instead, as was the practice at the time, I “volunteered” in the school cafeteria so I could afford lunch. While I was grateful for the warm meal, and nowadays some would argue it gave me grit, which I suppose it did, it was still a humiliating, belittling experience. Needless to say, I felt nothing but shame for myself and my family.

Given Mr. Ly’s oft-repeated background, one would have thought he might be more aware of the situation that he could be putting these families and their children in as described. Let’s hope a sense of decency for less-advantaged families prevails over any short-term personal political gain Mr. Ly might experience.

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