Free School Lunches – Readers’ Answers
This is A Reader Response to our post, “Is It Wrong To Use Free School Lunches?“
Dear Readers, A while back, Melinda wrote asking our opinion of accepting free school lunches if you qualify. You can read our initial response here. Since then, we received these reader comments on the same subject and we thought you might find it interesting. Tawra
I just read Melinda’s question regarding reduced school lunches. Having been on both sides of being able to afford and it being a real pinch, AND having worked in the public schools this past year, I would like to offer an additional perspective.
First of all, school lunches are not funded by the Department of Education or local school taxes. They are a program of the USDA to help farmers use the surplus. I don’t know all the specific details, but at least some of the foods are surplus that the government has ALREADY purchased and needs to distribute. That said, the local, state and federal layers of the education system DO look at the numbers of students receiving free and reduced price school lunch when determining where extra money will be spent. That is the only legal way of determining average income of a school/neighborhood or district. So, if a family decides to not sign up, that ultimately does cut the dollars being sent to that school.
Also, for those who decide they will take their reduced or free school lunch some of the time and bring lunch from home most of the time, that is great but be aware that if your school uses a debit account, the juice/milk and/or dessert that children often buy when bringing a bag lunch from home, actually will reduce your debit account more than just buying a whole reduced price lunch. Sounds stupid, but it’s true. At our elementary school, reduced price lunch was 40 cents. Milk plus dessert was, I believe, 65 cents.
I would suggest if you are truly feeling guilty about “taking” the lunch program, then make a donation of cash or food to a local food bank or use the extra cash to help out a friend.
Much of the same goes for the state Children’s Health Insurance. The numbers are used to make estimates of how many children are low income and thus be able to use the figures to appeal to state and federal levels for additional funding. Yes, it all ultimately comes out of our pockets but at least think about making sure some of it gets diverted to your neighborhood. :)
I would like to reassure Melinda to please use the free meals at school. This is a Federal program, not welfare. I raised 3 children on this program and it is a lifesaver. If enough people do not use the program that do qualify for it ,it could be discontinued, and the people that need it will not have it. Please do not feel bad or guilty about using these programs.
-Lisa from Gloucester Point, Virginia
Tawra, the federal government uses the number of students enrolled in the free/reduced lunch program to apportion other federal funds to schools for programs.
For example: If you have 2 schools with the same number of students and the same number of children eligible for free lunches, but at school A 50 children enroll and at school B 100 children enroll, then School B is going to get a lot more federal dollars for programs like Head Start than school A. The number of children enrolled in the free lunch program is used as a proxy in the funding formulas for several federal programs.
-Maria from Washington, DC
In response to the free school lunch question… I am a teacher and we wish more parents would take the free/reduced lunch. First, the school receives a lot of money for each child on the program. Second, there isn’t a chance of the child being embarrassed. As a teacher I don’t even know who the kids are in my class who are on the program.
Lastly, this also helps with your school’s end of the year test scores. In Missouri, we have the MAP. The school not only receives a score, but there are sub categories in the schools. One is free/reduced lunch. Not to sound cruel, but the more kids who score better on the test on the free/reduced lunch program the better the score is for that sub category. If one category fails the entire school is considered a failed school.
-Lisa from Gloucester Point, Virginia
Don’t forget that some schools offer free breakfast too! Both breakfast and lunch are critical preparation for children to succeed in school.
I have mixed feelings about the free lunch program. At the school where I work there is no proof of qualification. Parents fill out the paperwork, turn it in, and lunch is provided. No questions asked. Children who arrive in BMWs get their free lunch and always have a dollar for extras. I feel this is not right. Snacks are sold to everyone as a way for the district to pay their part of the free lunch. however the school does get extra funding if enough students get free lunch. By the way our hot lunches would upset Jamie Oliver!
grizzly bear mom
I live in an upper middle class neighborhood. Our parents pressured the Board of Education to put an addition on our very nice school for their precious darlings. In comparison, the lower middle class school 10 miles away doesn’t have books in its library. When our church gave the kids halloween candy, they said they would eat it for breakfast. They also took free women’s coats for the children to wear. Take the food stamps, WIC or free meals if you need them.
We lost everything in the crash of 2008-2009. I lost the business, we lost our home. I had paid for the car so our car looked good. In 1 year we went from solid middle class to SNAP and free lunch and trying to keep a roof above our heads. Don’t look at the outside. We kept what we could from our old life. I faked a lot of it so the kids would not be frightened. The free lunches fed my children breakfast, lunch and sometimes weekends. I didn’t eat (or pretended I did) to stretch as much as I could. I heated the apartment when the kids were home and we all wore lots of sweaters. We walked to save gas and sold the kids that it was exercise. It was an ugly time but with supports from church and family and those programs, the kids ate, had a safe place to lay their heads and were reasonably warm most of the winter. Now 8 years later we are on our feet. My children remember those times as times of family closeness. I remember them as staring at the edge of the cliff. I’m so glad that they remember the park as our vacation and the hot dog cookouts as great adventures.
Please don’t look at just the outside.
My husband has been unemployed since November 2018. In NJ we do not qualify for free lunch as we made over the poverty limit for a family of 4 because my husband sold some stock in our children’s college fund that pushed us $12000 over the limit. The free lunches would have been a wonderful blessing but God will bless us in other ways..
About the free and reduced lunches this an in site from the schools the more free and reduced lunch kids the more federal monies they receive this greatly benefits the school’s. And other children and the title one program. Also it provides income for extra workers in the tittle one program and preschool programs. It blesses others not only children who need it. Have a blessed day.
I work and live in a school district that receives grants to provide free lunches to all students regardless of income. We have had it for the past couple of years. If we don’t have a certain percentage of students taking school lunches, we will lose the grant money. I have been on both sides of the fence as well. Please don’t feel embarrassed about taking it. Your children probably don’t know the difference. They just know they are getting a breakfast and lunch every day. You can save, donate or pay down debt with what you save. It may not be much but every little bit helps. Our school has a backpack program for extremes low income. They are sent home with pasta, individual soup & cereals, fruit and drinks. The staff also provides hams at Christmas and Easter. Maybe look into seeing if that’s something your school district does as well.