Let them Eat Cheerios and Peanut Butter and Jelly; We Do!

Some time ago my family outlawed the purchase of meals in our schools cafeteria. I always thought a bag lunch was superior to cafeteria food and I was ecstatic at the thought of decreasing my personal subsidy for public school free breakfast/lunch entitlement programs.  You see I consider them a breeding ground for the “income redistribution” mindset and, as they say, if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem.

Don’t get me wrong I understand the importance of nutrition’s role in a student’s life I just feel that all parents even those in income challenged homes should be able to provide a modest breakfast and lunch to their kids especially when you consider the monstrous tax payer burden Americans shoulder by providing 31 million students families with a generous tax free entitlement income. I also believe that most American families should provide without subsidy, the food your children require. Isn’t that what food stamps are for? Also, I’m not willing to take a government handout and I won’t have my children enticed to incorporate liberal accommodations or tolerances in their lives. To be nice that breeds social moderates.

Contrary to popular belief every single meal served at every public school in America is subsidized by the federal government through the U.S.D.A breakfast and lunch programs. The subsidy amounts per meal differ based upon income levels and now have been expanded to cover snacks and after school program meals, but every public school student meal purchase is subsidized.

School food services (SFAs) receive a specific federal reimbursement rate for meals meeting U.S.D.A nutritional guidelines served for “free” (family income below 130% of poverty level) or at a “reduced price” (family income below 185% of poverty level) and for “paid meal” (meals purchased by students whose household incomes are above 185% poverty thresholds). This applies to breakfast, lunch and snacks at all public and non-profit private schools in America that meet U.S.D.A guidelines for nutrition. Any meal served by a school that doesn’t meet U.S.D.A. requirements is labeled a “competitive food” and its purchase receives no federal reimbursement.

Example: Schools providing a “free meal” receive a reimbursement rate of $2.68 per meal, “reduced price” reimbursement $2.28 per meal and a “paid meal” reimbursement of $0.25 per meal. At our school “paid meals” are $2.00 (breakfast or lunch). In other words lunch or breakfast would normally be $2.25 without the $0.25 federal subsidy.

Federal law regulates the amount (30 cents for breakfast, 40 cents for lunch) a school may charge for “reduced price” meals. School systems have no federal restrictions on pricing for “paid meals”. However, many in our government are calling for raising the price of a “paid meal” to accommodate discrepancies between a schools price for a “paid meal” and the federal reimbursement amount for “free meals”. Like you I was confused about that myself, but that’s our government and once again they want us to pay our fair share.

There is also another hidden ideology in this meal subsidy process deserving of your attention. If “paid meal” prices are too low for our government why should they have a $0.25 per meal subsidy? Because our government feels that students receiving free or reduced cost meals may be stigmatized or made fun of by kids who pay for lunch, so they decided to give everybody a subsidy and elevate this potential self-esteem issue. I am not kidding.

On average, Federal school meal reimbursements account for 50% of school food service revenues. Student meal payments for federally subsidized meals account for 25% of school food service revenues. “Competitive” foods (foods sold outside the federal school meals program) such as vending machines, or items that don’t meet U.S.D.A. guidelines account for 16% of food service revenue. State and local government contributions account for the remaining 9% of school food revenues. And we wonder why the federal government is so entrenched in our public schools?

In addition, the new nutritional standards implemented in September at the request of our First Lady have drastically increased school food service costs and lowered portion sizes. So the people who the government claims to be helping are getting less to eat and it’s causing fiscal problems at the local school level. Also Mrs. Obama’s demands to eliminate vending machines and other “competitive foods” are further reducing school food services revenues by cutting into the sales of “competitive foods” she doesn’t approve of. Apparently it’s also another stigmatization issue. Low income kids don’t have the money to purchase these items so they must go.

Every American who pays their own way realizes that entitlement spending (excluding social security and Medicare) is out of control. Recent reports on per household entitlement receipts paints a maddening picture for tax payers yet many never take the time to consider how we can effect change at the local level. Change at the local level often leads to change at the national level and the U.S.D.A school breakfast/lunch program can serve as an example.

As stupid and simple as it sounds if every American (over the 185% poverty level) sent their kids to school with a homemade lunch, instead participating in subsidizing another entitlement freebie, heads at the local level would begin to turn. Declining revenues for school lunch programs might get some attention from policy makers who no longer have the cash to pay for government subsidized free or discount lunches and your children wouldn’t be growing up thinking there is such a thing as a free lunch.

Like many of you I didn’t always get what I wanted for breakfast and lunch. When Carter was President I ate a lot of PB&J and leftovers slammed between two pieces of bread and we weren’t allowed to complain. Tough times call for cut backs and frugality. Just because you’re on the government dole doesn’t mean you’re entitled to more than self-sufficient middle class American’s can provide for their own families.