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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

School meals are free in California, Maine, Vermont

TANSTAAFL -- "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch" -- still applies, if you remember the taxpayers, but schools in some states will provide free breakfast and lunch to all students, regardless of financial need, reports Marina Pitofsky in USA Today.

California, Maine and Vermont have approved "universal meals," and other states may follow suit.

Last year's cutoff for a family of four was $34,000 in income for free meals and $48,000 for reduced-price meals. The new policy means students from middle-class and affluent families get two free meals a day, if they're willing to eat cafeteria food.

Federal waivers allowed schools to offer free meals, including meals-to-go for remote students during the pandemic, reports Libby Stanford in Education Week.

Those waivers expired, but the Keep Kids Fed Act raised reimbursement rates, making it easier for school cafeterias to keep prices low.

Schools with 40 percent or more students qualified for free and reduced-price meals may offer all students free meals.

School cafeterias are facing "inflation, supply-chain disruptions, and staffing shortages," Stanford writes.

If federal dollars don't cover the full costs, schools will end up diverting money from academics to feed children whose parents could afford the cost of a peanut-butter sandwich and an apple. That seems unwise to me.

Student poverty rates are calculated based on eligibility for free and subsidized meals, an increasingly unreliable measure. It's way past time to find alternatives.

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4 Kommentare

21. Aug. 2022

The bulk foods bought through government programs are relatively inexpensive. It is not cost effective to pay a bureaucrat to sift through, confirm, enter, and continually update stacks of paperwork.

I've taught for over 30 years, and I've only once seen a child who was eating both a packed lunch and the school lunch. His mother found out and called the school so it stopped. Also, if you think that modern school lunches have "junky stuff", you are mistaken. Dessert is usually a piece of fruit.

We pay for parks even though middle class families often have big yards with playground equipment. We don't refuse to let middle class children check out books from libraries even though their parents could…

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22. Aug. 2022
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Lunch content varies depending on district. My current one is high processed carb and sugar and the person in charge has no nutritional training nor is there any requirement to have any. Current USDA guideline for breakfast is 8 oz milk, 1 cup fruit (fresh, canned, or frozen), 2 servings of whole grains. That's usually a bagel or roll here, milk and fruit. Lunch guideline is two ounces meat, 1 cup fruit, 3/4 cup vegetable, 2 servings whole grains, 8 oz milk. That's usually hamburger, hot dog, taco, pizza, chicken patty. veg is potato, corn, or carrot sticks. Basically you can feed your child well for what you are being charged for starches if its not free to you. A…

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21. Aug. 2022

Several schools here do free meals. It's been frustrating for some families who say that their kid eats one reasonable breakfast or packs a good lunch at home and then can go eat the junky parts of the free meal too. So, in a time of rampant obesity, kids have access to 2 breakfasts and 2 lunches - obviously the kid doesn't have to eat both, but kids don't always turn down free donuts that are just sitting in front of them.

We see something similar with summer food-in-the-park programs and the covid school-closure-food-giveaways. They were asking middle class families to come get the food, because if enough people don't come then they discontinue the program. But, while I'm hap…

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