Free Lunch? What Free Lunch??

Published on September 19, 2012

By Pauline Wolak
Clash Guest Columnist

This week, like every year, I am bombarded with forms, enrollment packets, and requests for immunization records, physical forms, etc.  Filling out the proper paperwork for the start of every school year generally requires the patience of Job and an adult beverage.  The patience is for jotting down our address 30 times and the beverage for the rant that usually flows from my mouth when I get to the “free lunch” packet.

I could start with the obvious, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.  But that may be too obvious for our government.  In fact, I’m sure it is.

Free lunch now includes free breakfast.  Since when are we tasked with providing breakfast AND lunch? (Between the free food, free condoms, lessons about green energy, and Obama chants, it’s a wonder the public schools have time to teach anything at all.  Oh wait…)

It occurred to me today the individual families that receive welfare assistance are also likely part of this program.  Is their assistance lowered from September to June to reflect these extra meals?  I will grant the program this, according to their guidelines; they DO include welfare amounts as income when calculating need for free lunches.  But if they get assistance (i.e. free food), why the hell do they qualify for MORE free food?  Are the “poor” really starving?  When was the last time you saw a starving child attending public school?  Are the children even poor to begin with?

The Chicago Tribune, in a report earlier this year, stated that 76% of the children enrolled in the city’s schools qualify for free lunch.  Only, they don’t. Fraud is rampant.  It’s become common knowledge that the school system is only allowed to fact check 1% of applicants.  That’s the law, folks; federal law.  As stated in the article, “the government has created an $11 billion program conducted largely on the honor system, and one that appears to reward everyone except taxpayers.”

So much for free.

Chicago isn’t the only problem.  The issue of fraud coupled with a lack of checks and balances has befallen several states and many school districts across the country.  Districts are rewarded for the number of students enrolled in this program via Title 1 funding.   School officials are acting as dealers, pushing these forms on parents.  It’s the crack of the public school system. 

Does that make the tax payers enablers? Can we call for a mass intervention? 

I’m all for helping those that honestly need it.  No child should ever go hungry. But no parent should ever demand that the government (see taxpayer) give and give and give to the tune of $11 billion dollars annually. 

And no school should require me to fill out a form for a program I’d never use or qualify for.  I have the means to pay for my children’s lunches.  However, at $16 trillion in debt, this nation doesn’t have the means to pay for everyone else’s.

Pauline is a proud stay-at-home wife/mother of three. By “at home” she means everywhere but home. Chairing the school board, jumping into frozen lakes for charity, and fantasy football are three of her favorite things.

Image: public domain; U.S. Government document