Every Illinois student should get free school meals

California and Maine have already passed legislation to provide meals for all students at no charge. It’s a good investment with educational, behavioral and health benefits.

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Preschool students eat lunch at Dawes Elementary School at 3810 W. 81st Pl. on the Southwest Side, Monday morning, Jan. 11, 2021.

Preschool students eat lunch at Dawes Elementary School on the Southwest Side.

Ashlee Garcia/Sun-Times

As the executive director of the first statewide anti-hunger organization in Illinois, founded in 1988, I want to celebrate the recently passed legislation in California and Maine that will provide all children with free school meals beyond the pandemic. Those states have decided to provide healthful school meals to all students as part of the school day, regardless of household income. It is time that Illinois follows in their footsteps.

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com. Please include your neighborhood or hometown and a phone number for verification purposes. Letters should be approximately 350 words or less.

Anti-hunger advocates across the country are applauding these efforts because research shows that school meals help alleviate food insecurity and poverty while providing long-term improvements in educational, behavioral, and overall health outcomes for our nation’s most vulnerable children.

Illinois is an incredibly diverse state, and we know that our immigrant communities and communities of color experience more food insecurity, driven by COVID-19 and long-standing structural racism. Providing school meals to all students is critical for racial equity and justice. It would ensure that Black, Indigenous and Latinx students get the nutrition they need to thrive in the classroom and beyond.

Healthful school meals for all students at no charge would be a game-changer. It would support families, schools, and neighborhoods by ensuring all students are hunger-free and ready to learn.

California and Maine are showing us that this is a viable policy solution and a good investment in the future. We must call upon our congressional leaders to be at the forefront of making healthful school meals for all a reality nationwide.

Diane Doherty, Executive Director, Illinois Hunger Coalition

The politics of ward superintendents

The Sun-Times editorial regarding ward superintendents makes the case that these jobs are inherently political advisers to the alderpeople, and therefore should be Shakman-exempt.

I can buy that, but then why the hell are they Streets and San employees? They should be paid by the alderpeople they advise.

Steve Bohan, Bourbonnais

Targeting illegal gun sales is not enough

“Chicago police put illegal guns in their sights,” the Sun-Times’ Frank Main reported recently. Why? To stop the gun violence that again this year prompted at least one Chicago-based politician to urge, “Call out the National Guard,” which it seems is an annual call by some Chicago public officials or leaders.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms industry trade group, legal gun sales in Illinois for 2021 are estimated to be 191,000 guns, including 40,000 guns sold in April of this year alone.

Chicago police seized 9,800 guns last year, up from a yearly average of 7,000 guns.

Clearly, stopping violence by targeting illegal gun sales is like tracking M&M’s to find nuts. Many illegal guns will be found, and some illegals gun sales will be identified, but that number is dwarfed by the number of people with guns in their hands and an urge or reason to shoot.

Eventually, we’ll have no “stop the violence” stones left to turn over but the drug-prohibition stone. We’re almost there.

James E. Gierach, Palos Park

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