I am appalled about the amount of ink spilt on the so-called “free-lunch scandal” in New Jersey when so little is spent to discuss the problems of the poor and the hungry. The free and reduced lunch program is, at best, a minimal measure to make up for other, absurdly inadequate anti-poverty efforts.
According to reports from the US Department of Agriculture, roughly 97 percent of all children on subsidized lunch programs are within the program’s requirements. Of the small number who are not, about three-quarters make too much money and 24 percent deserve free lunches but don’t receive them. Private studies minimize the amount of fraud involved–but also point out eligible children don’t participate.
The numbers are probably pretty much the same in New Jersey where the State Comptroller Matthew Boxer recently released a report that was treated by some in the MSM as if the state actually found something new, unknown, and shocking.
Summer days are slow news days.
What is really funny is that Boxer found problems in Elizabeth where school board officials already are in trouble for faking applications for subsidized lunches–and the school board crowd in Elizabeth is made up of faux Democrats who put Christie signs on their lawns (I know because I live next door to one). These Christocrats have been favored by Christie and enjoy his patronage; they know all about free lunches.
What really is going is this: Christie and his cronies want to justify reducing state aid by eliminating meal eligibility as a measure of poverty. That way he can reduce aid to poor schools and look like Mr. Law Enforcement again, the way he did when he was out hunting potential political rivals as a federal prosecutor.
The best response came from Sharon Krengel of the Education Law Center (ELC):
“National School Lunch Program (NSLP) eligibility is not a perfect measure of student poverty, but it is widely believed to be the most accurate measure available and is used in the majority of states around the country. NSLP is designed to ensure that low-income children receive proper nutrition during the school day, but it also has been adopted as the most reliable poverty indicator for the calculation of state aid.
“The focus on finding evidence of fraud in the program ignores the arguably more important fact that there are many low-income families that would qualify for the program who do not apply. Efforts must be made to ensure an accurate count of eligible students, but outreach to those who qualify and are not receiving this important service must be paramount. (Emphasis added).
“ELC will strongly oppose any effort to uncouple the NSLP from NJ’s current school funding formula. We condemn examples of fraud in the program, but the leap from these examples to criticism of the use of this important measure of poverty in our school funding formula is ideologically based, unsupported by the evidence and wholly unwarranted.”
I want Boxer and Mr. Law Enforcement to find out who is responsible for allowing even one child to go hungry in New Jersey and use their creative lawyering to indict those responsible.
Yeah, fat chance.