The Time I Got Banned From Free Lunch

October 22, 2010

It was the days of summer when my sisters and I were not in camp. My days were fairly mundane with out much outside influence. I would wake up, eat cereal, watch cartoons and then head outside to play skelly and lemonade with my boys until noon rolled around. Noon was the time that our local public schools would start serving free lunch to the community. Many thanks to the Black Panthers for helping this program become a reality. Free lunch was much like a family affair. The whole block would leave in droves to go and get on line for the free lunch. You could tell the time of day by how the block would empty.

At the beginning of the summer a calendar would circulate with the menu for the two months we would be without school books or formal homework. There was one item on the list which was my weakness. The “French bread pizza” was the stuff of legend. The toasty crust with a single layer of cheese laying flat in a shallow puddle of tomato sauce would haunt me until the day it showed up on my tray. And while the idea of a free hot meal which depending on the day could be quite enticing, it was also pretty dangerous. I grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn in the 80s. The lines for free lunch as I remember would stretch long and would practically beg for trouble. You had families who would often attempt to skip the line by sheer virtue of their numbers. As in most dire situations, might equals right and you might have to swallow your pride to still get your food while avoiding an unnecessary scrap session.

It just so happens that on the day of my banishment from Free Lunch at my old school P.S. 284 pizza was the entree. I walked into that lunchroom filled with glee ready to grab my tray with the hope that chocolate milk would be available to wash down my delicious pizza. I sat down with my friends, devoured my lunch and made my exit from the school. Upon walking out the door a sinister scheme was hatched. I would walk back around to the front and get back on line. The pizza was too good to have to wait until the next time it showed up on the menu. I just had to have that pizza again, immediately. So I did just that. I walked around the school, got back on line, and walked past the security guard like it was all to the good. Before I could get a full swallow down of my delectable delight the security guard walked over and said I don’t want to see you in hear again this summer. My heart dropped down to my stomach. You see the policy of the lunch program was that you ate once for the day. The had a ton of people to feed so seconds were out. I was so sick I couldn’t finish enjoying the bounty of my scheme. My mother depended on the free lunch program to stretch her money for other family necessities. If I couldn’t go to free lunch I couldn’t tell her. She would kill me. My friend Trevor from the 5th floor of my building came through with the words I needed to get back on track. “Don’t worry Dashaun, they banned me before too. Just wait until late on the next day and they will forget.” Of course, they would forget! I mean the whole damn neighborhood walked through those doors looking for sustenance every day Monday through Friday. We even had a song we would sing about it. “The free lunch bunch…eat free lunch everydayyy. The free lunch bunch…except for Saturdayyyy.”

The next day I didn’t go with my sisters or the rest of the block to free lunch. I stayed on the block practicing my skelly skills working on perfectly plucking my top into the 13 box. After a few folks returned from the school I put Trevor’s plan to work. I got on line flanked by strangers and my own nerves focused on the goal at hand, FOOD. When I got to the security guard I did not look him in the eye and tried to hide my guilt. I walked by him with no problem and ate whatever was the designated meal for the day. I’ll never know if he honestly didn’t notice me or felt sorry for what he knew must have been a very important thing in my life at the time, free lunch.


4 Responses to “The Time I Got Banned From Free Lunch”

  1. Doni said

    Everytime they had free lunch around my way it was bologna and cheese. I had that at home and my grandmothers. Nah I’m good. They gave us Harlem folks bologna daily.

    • dashaunworld said

      Bologna and cheese B!?! Are you serious? Man we had a full menu and at least once a month we would get a burger and fries as well has sloppy joes. They did yall dirty in Harlem man.

  2. Universal Truth said

    When it came to free lunch, the Italian dishes were always the best. Lasagna was my favorite. I loved it so much, whenever I found out it was on the menu for the day, I’d automatically start being nice to people. The school principal came to my class once to speak on the ongoing gang problems and wanted ideas on how to stop the violence. I seriously wanted to say; “Serve them the Lasanga! WITH TWO ROLLS! That’ll spark a gang truce, no question!” Long live Lasagna…and the KANE!

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