by Tom Finkel
Last week conservative talk-radio stalwart Rush Limbaugh made a modest proposal on his syndicated show, suggesting that underprivileged kids who suffer from malnutrition should consider Dumpster diving.
Limbaugh was responding to a story from AOL News warning that the 16 million U.S. children who rely on free or reduced-price lunches will go hungry while schools are out during the summer.
Not surprisingly, Limbaugh's politically incorrect eructation prompted an equal and opposite blast from the watchdogs at Media Matters for America, who countered with a story headlined -- you guessed it -- "Limbaugh attacks school lunches, suggests hungry children should 'dumpster dive.'"
As much as Gut Check loves us a tussle, we found the demagoguery from both sides long on outrage and short on common sense.
After the jump: Listen to Limbaugh's comments and ponder Gut Check's 10 Alternatives to Dumpster Diving to Nourish Poor Youth...
The sad facts, per AOL's Judy Pasternak:
"The children caught in the gap will likely spend the next few months cadging leftovers from neighbors, chowing down on cheap junk, lining up with their families at food banks that are already overmatched or simply learning to live with a constant headache, growling stomach and chronic fatigue. When school rolls around again in the fall, they will be less healthy and less ready to learn than their peers."
And Limbaugh's take:
"We're going to start a feature on this program: 'Where to find food.' ...And, of course, the first will be: 'Try your house.' It's a thing called the refrigerator. You probably already know about it. Try looking there. There are also things in what's called the kitchen of your house called cupboards. And in those cupboards, most likely you're going to find Ding-Dongs, Twinkies, Lays ridgy potato chips, all kinds of dips and maybe a can of corn that you don't want, but it will be there. If that doesn't work, try a Happy Meal at McDonald's. You know where McDonald's is. There's the Dollar Menu at McDonald's, and if they don't have Chicken McNuggets, dial 911 and ask for Obama.
"There's another place if none of these options work to find food; there's always the neighborhood dumpster."
See? Heavy on rhetoric and light on solutions! Which brings us to...
1. Urban fishing What red-blooded American kid wouldn't relish the chance to impale a worm on a hook and pull a tasty meal out of a city pond? Think of the self-sufficiency skills! (Extra credit for "noodling.")
2. Two words: free samples! C'mon, you've done it yourself. You go to Whole Foods, pretend to browse while actually making the rounds of the food-sampling stations. Doesn't have the survival-skill cachet of fishing, but hey, it's air-conditioned.
3. Blend in Go to a big municipal park on a nice summer day, find a big family group having barbecue and...blend in. Admittedly, this gets a little dicey if the group's all African American and you're white, or vice versa. Also: Be sure to fill up on high-protein items like hot dogs and burgers, and stay the hell away from Aunt Myrtle's potato salad. Nothing like a bout of food poisoning to undo all the nutritional goodness you've just achieved.
4. Pigeon In fancy-eatin' circles, these are known as "squab." Once a kid masters the art of dispatching a pigeon, plucking, gutting and spit-roasting it, he or she will never go back to government cheese. In fact, the next step is liable to be...
5. Bigger game As we Americans have continued our inexorable expansion away from urban centers, we have surrounded and subsumed various critter populations, from possums to raccoons to deer. In short, there's a whole mess of meat out there. (Stray dogs? There's another thought!)
6. Gallery openings Another time-honored freeloading tradition. Kids are strongly cautioned, however, to keep to the cheese and crackers and steer clear of the wine. We're not in any way sanctioning underage drinking; and besides, stunts like that are bound to get you thrown out.
7. Toys don't have much lead in them any more Neither do paint chips, for that matter.
8. College campuses The young 'uns will have to get there early in the summer, but once finals are over and done with, you can find more than mere food in those Dumpsters. Stuff like a DVD player for big bro, a flat-screen TV for Dad and a futon and an almost-new toaster oven for Mom. (How do we know this? Let's just say we, um, have it on good authority.)
9. Sell Mom's OxyContin The profit margin is high, and the Limbaugh-symmetry borders on the poetic.
10. A modest proposal "A young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout." - Jonathan Swift, 1729.