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‘What fresh dystopian hell is this?’ High school grocery store trading food for good deeds slammed online

Proponents hope the program is replicated in other small towns.


Rachel Kiley


Posted on Dec 15, 2020

A Texas high school has come up with a creative way to help its students from “economically disadvantaged” families put food on the table—but not everyone is thrilled with the message it’s sending.

In November, Linda Tutt High School in Sanger, Texas, partnered with First Refuge Ministries, Albertsons, and Texas Health to create a grocery store in an empty room within the school. The store primarily sells paper goods, shelf-stable items, and frozen foods—but it doesn’t accept actual cash for those sales. 

Instead, students are expected to earn points via good deeds, good grades, or helping out around the school grounds. 

“One thing we really push for is students earning points by going above and beyond in the classroom or doing something kind,” principal Anthony Love told CNN. “These are the things we celebrate, and we’ll call home and tell mom and dad their student got a positive office referral and they get a reward for that.”

Love estimates that of the 2,750 students in the school district, “43% of these students are considered economically disadvantaged” and “3.6% of…students are considered homeless.”

“We thought it was important to support them and their families and make sure they had food on the table,” he said.

But while the story is clearly intended as a double whammy feel-good tale of ensuring students eat while also teaching them responsibility, some say it’s actually highlighting—and even exacerbating—major issues within our society.

“This is actually monstrous and a sign of a culture so poisoned by harmful bootstraps narratives that even children living in poverty due to a catastrophe have to jump through performative hoops to convince people they’re worthy of being provided with basic necessities,” @della_morte wrote on Sunday, in a tweet that’s been shared almost 9000 times so far.

Many agreed with this take, pointing out the problems that this might cause for these teens both immediately and down the line.

“What fresh dystopian hell is this?” asked Twitter user @aschwortz.

Complicating matters further, LTHS is an alternative school within Sanger Independent School District, meaning the students that attend—and who this program is primarily aimed at—may already be struggling with any number of mental health issues, behavioral problems, or external circumstances that resulted in their enrollment in an alternative school.

As many pointed out, the entire situation furthers the argument that anyone can pull themselves up “by their bootstraps,” ignoring that some circumstances are far more difficult to overcome than others. Worse than that, it puts the onus on children to shift their focus from school, hobbies, and social development in order to provide for their families—and could cause problems at home if they aren’t able to follow through.

But the executive director of First Refuge Ministries, one of LTHS’s partners in this endeavor, hopes to see the program spread to other communities where families are struggling.

“If we can do this inside other schools it will do a whole lot to help other small towns,” Paul Juarez told CBS DFW.

Or, if there are groups that can afford to help out their community without asking for money in return, they could simply make sure these teens’ families have food on the table without any strings attached.

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*First Published: Dec 15, 2020, 11:19 am CST