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ATLANTA (WXIA) -- Congressman Jack Kingston's office sent 11Alive News a response to the backlash over his suggestion kids could earn their free lunches by sweeping.

Kingston's Communications Director, Chris Crawford, said, "It is sad that trying to have a productive conversation about instilling a strong work ethic in the next generation of Americans so quickly devolves into the usual name calling partisan hysteria. Having worked from a young age himself, Congressman Kingston understands the value of hard work and the important role it plays in shaping young people."

The response comes after a Huffington Post article highlighted a Saturday speech at a meeting of the Jackson County Republican Party. Kingston is quoted:

"But one of the things I've talked to the secretary of agriculture about: Why don't you have the kids pay a dime, pay a nickel to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch? Or maybe sweep the floor of the cafeteria -- and yes, I understand that that would be an administrative problem, and I understand that it would probably lose you money. But think what we would gain as a society in getting people -- getting the myth out of their head that there is such a thing as a free lunch," he said.

Not quoted in the article, but included in video of the meeting, Kingston points out problems with the school lunch program: "The school lunch program has a 16% error rate. The school lunch program is very expensive."

Kingston is vying for Georgia's senate seat that will be vacant when Saxby Chambliss leaves office next year.