Our school district will waive enrollment fees for families who qualify for free meals, BUT, in a completely antiquated and demeaning practice, they make you write a letter explaining why you're applying. I'm an employee for the district, but I also qualify for free meals. I can't write what I really want to say, so I'm putting it here.
  1. Dear School Board,
  2. It may surprise you to see that I am writing to request a waiver from enrollment fees and probably surprises you even more that I qualify for free meals. After all, I work at the district office as a director of a district department at the administrative level.
  3. It's true I've never applied for the waiver before. That doesn't mean I've never qualified. Since my husband left, I've qualified every year, but I've been too embarrassed to apply, afraid of what my coworkers would think. After all, they review the applications before they go to the board.
  4. They all know my husband left. First of all, it's a small town, and secondly (and even more humiliating), my ex left me the day of our office Christmas party and I cried in front of everyone. But since then, I've tried to cultivate an air of "Everything's just fine!! Nothing to see here!! I'm doing great on my own!!"
  5. You see me with my stylish dresses and lipsticked smile and my cute house and my nice car that's only a few years old and my kids always look well taken care of and have everything they need. You may notice I've lost a fair amount of weight, but I am back on the market! You've seen me at other jobs, but that's because I like to keep busy.
  6. Here's the truth - 95% of my clothes came from the thrift store, and if they didn't, they were most likely the result of a gift. I am a careful shopper and know how to put things together to look nice. The same goes for the kids' clothes, unless they buy their own or I fight with their dad for extra money.
  7. The house is cute, but it's too expensive. I had to move because I was evicted from our old house after finding out my ex had stopped paying the rent months before he left. My sister helps me pay the rent every month, and while I am tremendously grateful, it makes me feel like a failure.
  8. The car is nice, but it's actually my mother's. She gave it to me after our van was repossessed because, you guessed it, my ex wasn't making the payments. I pay the insurance, which isn't enough, but she understands.
  9. I've lost weight largely due to stress, but also because I don't always eat. My kids come first, and when it's the end of the month and money is getting tight, I may only eat once a day. I make sure the kids are well fed, and I am an expert at making something out of nothing. It's better when they're in school. Summers are hard.
  10. I work other jobs because I have to. You pay me a pathetically paltry sum to do what I do, and I can't make a living wage from it. It should tell you something about which side of the poverty line I'm on that I filled out my meal application honestly, including all child support, and I still qualified for free meals.
    (I love what I do, and I stay because it allows me flexible enough hours to take my son, who has Asperger's, depression, and anxiety for his therapy appointments, or to work from home when he can't tolerate school. Other part time jobs, especially during the day, don't offer that kind of flexibility.)
  11. Because I work for the district, I know that as a board you qualify these applications strictly based on income. Do they qualify for free meals? Yes, waived. Do they qualify for reduced meals? Yes, discounted. I know you don't even read these letters, don't even take what they say into consideration.
  12. So why? Why make us beg? Why make us lay out our humiliations, our failures, our hardships and struggles for your judgment? If all you look at is the F or the R on the bottom of the application, why? So you can deem us worthy of your magnanimity? So you can tut at our plights and feel superior?
  13. I am working. I am trying. I am struggling. I am in need of assistance. Boiled down in four sentences for you. For every application you get. What more do you need to know? And more importantly, why do you need to know it?
  14. Sincerely, Brook