Thursday, May 29, 2014

Maybe there is a free lunch ...

Starting next school year, about 59,000 students at 72 high-poverty Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools will automatically get free lunch through a new community eligibility provision of the federal school nutrition program.

The provision covers schools across the country where at least 40 percent of students are on public assistance,  in foster care or fall into other categories that automatically qualify them for lunch subsidies,  according to a presentation to the CMS board.  The goal is to eliminate the need for high-need schools to collect applications and process payments  --  and to make sure students get the nutrition they need to be ready to learn.

Breakfast at Elizabeth Traditional Elementary
CMS already rolled out a universal free breakfast program this year,  though participation hasn't been what officials had hoped, child nutrition director Cindy Hobbs told the board.  The district aimed for a 50 percent increase in kids eating breakfast;  so far it has been about 20 percent.

The free lunch program should save some time and money for participating schools  --  including, Superintendent Heath Morrison said, write-offs for lunches that children eat and parents fail to pay for.  "The reality is many of these families simply can't afford to pay,"  he said,  even if they don't meet the income cutoffs for free meals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture,  which already supports CMS students to the tune of about $50 million a year,  will pick up the tab for all students at the designated schools.

Of course,  there are complications.  Eligibility for federal lunch aid is used to gauge school need and qualify students for a waiver of athletic and other fees.  Families will still have to fill out income paperwork for the fee waivers,  CMS officials said,  and the district will have to find another method of tallying the number of  "economically disadvantaged students."

Regular blog readers may be amused to hear that board member Rhonda Lennon noted the perennial comments from "Wiley Coyote"  raising questions about the free lunch program.  "Mr. Coyote will want to know:  What alternative methods for determining student eligibility were used?"  The answers were fairly complex;  those who are really into this can find the child nutrition discussion on video at this link,  starting at the 1:47 mark.  Lennon's questions about Wiley Coyote (and comments about the tastiness and fat content of Takis hot snacks) starts at 2:03.

Vice Chair Tim Morgan asked about the prospects for the federal government to just pay for lunch for all students.

Hobbs said it won't happen soon,  but it should:  "If you can give a child free transportation and you can give them free books,  why can't you give them free meals?"

On the Raleigh roundup,  I'm not finding any new education-related bills on the General Assembly listing for Wednesday.  But Pamela Grundy of MecklenburgACTS says the Senate education committee is taking up changes to the Read to Achieve act,  which mandates consequences for third-graders who fail to prove they can read on grade level.  Read her group's critique here.


Wiley Coyote said...

I think I have awakened in some alternate universe.....

Anonymous said...

Mr. Morgan, should we tie their shoes and take the tests for the children too? When is the over-dependence on the govt going to stop? Not too soon according to Tim.

This problem is only going to get worse with thinking like that.

Anonymous said...

Free breakfast, free lunch, free supper, free snacks, free everything ... thank you taxpayers
yada yada yada ...

Any real news to report?

Anonymous said...

After seeing the prepackaged processed chemical laced crud take over the breakfasts at our school, it's no wonder the students refuse to eat it. Unpack, serve, throw away, especially the milk. By the way, the cafeteria folks are great cooks, they just have nothing to work with or a budget.

Anonymous said...

"If you can give a child free transportation and you can give them free books, why can't you give them free meals?"

Nothing in life is free-at least not to working citizens. Better to repeal the taxes, fees, regulations, Obamacare, EPA, etc so that businesses can jump-start employment so people can provide for their families. We will soon have an additional 8 TRILLION dollars in national debt since Obama took office (not counting the 86 trillion or so in unfunded liabilities.) Do Democrats care about this?

Anonymous said...

Good morning Wiley,



Anonymous said...

Ann Doss Helmes seems to believe that the food will fall magically from the sky onto the childrens plate in her world of maybe there is a free lunch. Who do you think is paying for the lunch? The taxpayers! So not only are we now responsible for their housing, cell phone, food, candy, daycare and whatever else there is, we are going to pay for their school lunch (that they probably are not going to eat) to the sum of $50 million dollars. What a waste! Just think of all the semi-automatic weapons and tanks the Dept of Agriculture can purchase with that money. Because they need those for what...

Anonymous said...

Nothing is free!! Soak the taxpayers

Anonymous said...

So, what time do high school students have to eat their free breakfast due to the bell schedule?


Anonymous said...

Free? Free? Come on Ann, Heath, board members who support this, etc--you surely know this is not "free"--somebody has to pay for it. Why, it's the federal government, of course, so again, it must be free. Not long ago on NPR, I believe on All Things Considered, the host was interviewing a Scandinavian citizen (can't remember which country), currently living in the US, who was decrying that some service or other was not "free" here, as it was in his country. He then rattled off all the "free" things provided by the government in that country. I was waiting for the host to ask exactly who did pay for all these "free" things. But, being an NPR employee, of course she did not. Not much asking that question around here either!

Wiley Coyote said...

Okay, where do I start?

Based on the current numbers, 54% of CMS students qualify for the NSLP. That's 77,010 students out of 142,612.

How many more students will be added? 59,000? A total of 136,010? 6,000 not getting free meals and subsidizing the other 136,000? What's the breakout?

I applaud Rhonda Lennon for bringing the subject up as this relates to other variables associated with the school lunch program.

Lennon fought hard to keep CMS sports a few years ago when Gorman was looking for places to cut the budget.

My opinion was they should be cut due to the fact no one really knew who qualified for the lunch program and it wasn't fair for others to have to subsidize sports with such an unknown variable as to who truly qualified for the NSLP. I also said at the time and believe today, that ALL kids should play sports for free.

Vice Chair Tim Morgan asked about the prospects for the federal government to just pay for lunch for all students. Hobbs said it won't happen soon, but it should: "If you can give a child free transportation and you can give them free books, why can't you give them free meals?"

If you believe every child should have a free meal because they get "free transportation and books", then let all kids play sports for free, get free school supplies, get a free lunch, be in the band for free and get free AP/IB tests, etc. That way, there are no fees for any child to get an education and the overall experience that goes with it.

Public schools should be totally free of fees that are based on a system so broken and rife with fraud which uses questionable FRL data.

The question is, how do you intend to pay for it?

Also, the pat response to potential fraud and the verification of benefits in the program are always the same. You never hear how many people were denied benefits due to checking a 3% sample, which is all the USDA will allow in an audit. The last major rate of denial was 60% a number of years ago.

Feel free to Google school lunch fraud and read the many articles from across the country and see for yourself how much there is in the program.

What's really shameful when you read about these incidents is that many people who work in the school system are the ones committing the fraud.

Here's a snippet from NJ last year:

The probe found false information on lunch program applications submitted from the households of 40 school district employees — as well as six elected school board members in Pleasantville, Newark and Paterson.

Here's another from last July in Indiana:

ANAPOLIS – An estimated one third of Indiana students receiving free or reduced-price lunches do not actually qualify for the federal program or their families failed to verify their eligibility, according to audits the Indiana Department of Education detailed for lawmakers on Monday.

It was stated in the presentation that the state can actually have tighter verification than the Feds, so in light of that, perhaps we should demand the state verify all applicants.

Nah, the Federal Government will threaten to yank all funds to the state in retaliation, so the status quo will keep moving forward.

I stand by my assessment of the school lunch program, the lack of real fact based management of it, the billions in plate waste each year and the problems it creates between those who get it and those who don't.

And to save Rhonda from her BOE colleagues by using "questionable, unnamed sources with a Looney Tunes moniker", my name is Robert Wilson.

Anonymous said...

Talk about nutrition.....and then show a picture of a kid drinking chocolate milk (horrible for you and should not be offered) and eating a popsicle. Great stuff.

And Mr. Morgan, you must be buddies with our current president. There's no need to have a decent paying job, or NOT have kids if you don't have a decent paying job, or NOT have kids while you're a teenager.....just let that be someone else's problem. Let the people who DO have decent paying jobs, and DID wait to have kids after they got a decent paying job.....all chip in and pay for the others. Yeah, great idea. If we can give kids free transportation, and a free breakfast; why can't we give them a free lunch, free dinners, no taxes, pay them for having kids, pay them because they are unemployed, give them free visits to the emergency rooms/hospitals, free healthcare, free prescriptions, free cell phones, free housing?? Hmm, still trying to figure out why some people are just sick and tired of your way of thinking????

Anonymous said...

Alicia, the high school students are running (literally) into school due to the fact that 1) school starts at 7:15am and they are late and 2) the majority of high school students drive or carpool to school and do not ride the buses in the morning (due to early bus stop times). They don't have time to stop by the cafeteria and pick up breakfast. All that food then gets thrown out, waste all around.

Chablis said...

Tim Morgan, did you really just say that? Apparently you are no longer a "conservative" and are pandering to the voting public. Surprise, surprise.

Shamash said...

"If you can give a child free transportation and you can give them free books, why can't you give them free meals?"

Some people were just born for government work.

Shamash said...


As a "Looney Tunes" character you at least had political influence.

So what "tune" was your alarm set to this morning?

I'm guessing "The Gambler".

"Know when to walk away, know when to run".

And for those teachers wishing to move to Houston ISD, just wait a few years and they can have it ALL here.

For "free", too...

BTW, they have an interesting program in HISD called "Apollo 20" that might be worth a look-see.

It shows the extent they WILL (and who knows, maybe be FORCED to) go to in order to decrease the "achievement gap".

And, like everything else, it's

Anonymous said...

8:57, it looks like a popsicle but the caption said it was string cheese. I decided not to use the one that zoomed in on dreadful-looking multi-colored cereal (though presumably it met nutrition standards).

Anonymous said...

No background on who Hobbs is for the casual reader! His statement is ridiculous.

Wiley Coyote said...


I awoke to John Lennon's "Across the Universe"...

Anonymous said...

Now folks, remember that the "Charlotte way" (and the "Observer way") in the past has been to blame school failure on the evil, selfish suburbanites--you know, the ones with all the fancy, well funded schools in their neighborhoods. The schools where the kids automatically succeed because they have the best of everything. So of course it is logical that more and more kids should get free lunch. After all, deep down inside the folks advocating this know who is paying--and it only seems fair.
Question--I know there is a summer meals program which I think is free for all who get FRL during the school year (and provides breakfast and lunch, maybe dinner too?). So if everyone gets the free lunch does everyone get free food in the summer too? Wow--what a deal!

Anonymous said...

Alicia, how's South Carolina?

Anonymous said...

The food in schools is terrible.

Anonymous said...

Once the government faces no penalty for spending more than it takes in there will be no bounds to what it spends..... and no bounds to the deficits at which it operates....

Let the pandering continue......

Unknown said...

When I was in DC last month, a person at the NEA explained that last fall CMS was one on the districts that was tested on paper to determine the likelihood of every school getting free lunch. CMS could have easily said “We’re all in” and it would have happened.

The NEA felt at the time that CMS wouldn’t go the whole district route…and that’s what happened.

So, in answer to Mr. Morgan’s question to Ms Hobbs, there was nothing to stop a district-wide free meal plan. And as Rev. Tate pointed out last year when the district got the free breakfast program, the meals are free to the kids…but not to the folks who pay federal income taxes.

This is the greatest thing since free sliced bread. Maybe, just maybe it will put some integrity and honesty into the funding of Weighted Student Staffing. Maybe, but unlikely, CMS will be forced to look at report cards instead of family income to see which students really needs extra instructional funding.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

There are so many problematic layers with this "free" lunch program. The writer could have gone much deeper with the investigation and ask politicians who have decided on this program how much lobbyist from the processed food makers contributed to their politics. This is the elephant in the room (besides the extraordinary abuse from people who want free everything). The lobbyist from the processed food makers control everything about school lunches, hence why you always see name brand "crap" give to kids at school. This is never talked about, but I would bet an awful lot of money that Kraft, PET, Kellogg, Sara Lee, etc., spent millions on getting this past in whatever committee signed this off. This is the deeper issue, how much corporate America loves the "free" everything programs, from school lunches, WIC, Food Stamps, free cell phones, paying of utilities. You will never hear them complain because they control the politicians that control the decisions. This is how America is broken.

Anonymous said...

it's amazing to me to see where comments lead after Anne posts an article. Last time a checked, Anne Helms did not lobby for CMS to get free lunch and breakfast programs, she is merely telling you about it so that you are informed to some degree.

secondly, what are we supposed to do with these kids, let them go hungry because their parents SUCK! Seriously folks, do you realize how heartless some of you sound, pathetic.

Anonymous said...

So CMS has a GOAL of increasing dependency and taxpayer expense on breakfast by 50%? That's downright criminal.

And why is the Department of Agriculture so eager to support free food giveaways via free lunch and food stamps? What is their agenda? I'm sure this food has a lot of GMO corn, high fructose corn syrup and processed ingredients in it. Not what I would consider healthy.

Our government has gone off the rails, and this paper is nothing more than their PR department.

Shamash said...

Anon 1:25pm.

"what are we supposed to do with these kids, let them go hungry because their parents SUCK!"

How about just identifying the kids who REALLY need something (as opposed to the ones whose parents are gaming the system).

Why reward parents who suck?

Put the resources where they are REALLY needed and not on the bogus FRL moochers (or any other bogus "needy").

Of course, I feel a bit like Bolyn McClung in that I suspect that even with "free" meals (and just about everything else), the schools STILL won't focus on putting the resources where they are actually needed.

Once they get in that "poverty" groove, it's hard for them to get out.

And there is such a huge infrastructure already in place to serve the loudest complainers.

I'd just break the system into smaller pieces so it's harder to "rob Peter to pay Paul".

Wiley Coyote said...


Do you know the last time CMS did a 3% audit a few years back, 60% DID NOT QUALIFY for the benefit based on responses given?

Extrapolate that out over 142,000 students and the overpayments are staggering.

The USDA's numbers show their error payments nationally to be about $1.8 BILLION per year and estimated another $2 BILLION DOLLARS is thrown away by kids on the program. That estimate was before Obama's "healthy choices" meal program that has exacerbated the problem.

Throw in all the other freebies associated with being designated as an FRL recipient and the costs to taxpayers goes even higher.

There isn't one person here who is opposed to providing a child with meals who truly needs and qualifies for them, but it's way past time to stand up and say enough is enough with all of the waste coming down the pike from Washington and the states each year.

From the USDA website:

National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

Department of Agriculture


$11.3B Total Payments

$1.8B Improper Payments

15.7% Improper Payment Rate

The National School Lunch Program's Improper Payment Rate (15.7%) is the second highest of the Top 10 High-Error Programs of the Federal Government, behind the Earned Income Tax Credit at 24.0%.

Anonymous said...

Studies show 53% are morbidly obese 89% of Americas poverty class is obese/fat that includes children.

It is pathetic that there is such ignorance from media liberals over this massive obesity disease and death in the hoods due to over eating.

Th idea is lose down to your prescribed medical weight. Forget all this WH eat healthy crap for obese kids and the tens of billions in added medical costs to taxpayers for this neglect.
Fat is fat. Cut the food period.

Cutting down on eating and dieting is the only solution if America wants to solve an 89% poverty obesity problem that is medically dangerous and continues to force taxpayers to pay more bills with the redistribution socialist Obamacare joke.

Studies prove these so called health foods are fake and cause more obesity. The only answer is cut back 50% on intake.

Shamash said...


"I awoke to John Lennon's "Across the Universe"..."

Ahh, from the soundtrack of Apollo 20.

(Interesting that HISD would choose to name their current "achievement gap" project after a mission that never got off the ground.)

Anonymous said...

"If your feed a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime".

There isn't a regular here who would deny a needy child a free breakfast or lunch. It's about a broken system and a philosophy that questions the wisdom of learned helplessness.

I housed a CMS homeless student for a year. Two Thanksgivings ago, I was the recipient of a charitable food drive held at the 6-12 school for the benefit of the student who lived with me. When my "son" came home with a large cardboard box filled with a turkey, canned cranberries, canned green beans, rolls, and a box of instant potatoes, I burst out laughing. After all, I lived in a neighborhood loaded with doctors, bankers and lawyers. The laughter quickly subsided when I saw the look on my "son's" face which was absolutely heartbreaking. My father was a school principal for 3 years at the most rural poor K-12 school in all of NY. I attended school with classmates who lived in delapitated trailers, filthy shacks with dirt floors, and makeshift basements with tin roofs. Most of my classmates ate lunch with special blue tickets.

Again, it's not about the very real need of serving poor children who's only semi-decent meal a day might be soggy pizza with government cheese and a carton of milk. It's about breaking the cycle of poverty which includes teaching people how to support themselves without the learned expectation that everything in life is free.


Anonymous said...

2:41, the "core partners" of the No Kid Hungry Campaign are Walmart, the Arby's Foundation and the Food Network. From what I recall from previous articles, there are a number of other food producers involved. It's no secret; I just don't have time/space to do the definitive report on each blog post.

Wiley Coyote said...


I was thinking more along the lines of this reasoning by John Lennon:

I was lying next to my first wife in bed, you know, and I was irritated. and I was thinking. She must have been going on and on about something and she'd gone to sleep and I kept hearing these words over and over, flowing like an endless stream. I went downstairs and it turned into a sort of cosmic song rather than an irritated song, rather than a "Why are you always mouthing off at me?"... [The words] were purely inspirational and were given to me as boom!. I don't own it you know; it came through like that. my FRL irritation.

Anonymous said...

Lennon was communist, I prefer Cash...

Anonymous said...

Teachers (1-6)with a family of 4 are on FOOD STAMPS and FRL.



Anonymous said...

Teachers (6-12) with a family of 4 are eligible for Medicaid and WIC.. This state is crazy. NC is starting to make Mississippi look good.

Anonymous said...

Just spoke with Tim Morgan and he reiterated what I thought was clear: He asked the question about universal free lunch, but did not advocate for it. Child nutrition director Cindy Hobbs (who is identified higher in the post, 5/29 10:10) made the comment about providing free meals for all in response to Morgan's question.

Anonymous said...

More Takis for the children!

Wiley Coyote said...

Hot Cheetos and Takis.....

Anonymous said...

The type and formula of most schemes of philanthropy or humanitarianism is this: A and B put their heads together to decide what C shall be made to do for D. The radical vice of all these schemes, from a sociological point of view, is that C is not allowed a voice in the matter, and his position, character, and interests, as well as the ultimate effects on society through C's interests, are entirely overlooked. I call C the Forgotten Man. For once let us look him up and consider his case, for the characteristic of all social doctors is, that they fix their minds on some man or group of men whose case appeals to the sympathies and the imagination, and they plan remedies addressed to the particular trouble; they do not understand that all the parts of society hold together, and that forces which are set in action act and react throughout the whole organism, until an equilibrium is produced by a re-adjustment of all interests and rights. They therefore ignore entirely the source from which they must draw all the energy which they employ in their remedies, and they ignore all the effects on other members of society than the ones they have in view. They are always under the dominion of the superstition of government, and, forgetting that a government produces nothing at all, they leave out of sight the first fact to be remembered in all social discussion - that the State cannot get a cent for any man without taking it from some other man, and this latter must be a man who has produced and saved it. This latter is the Forgotten Man......
William Graham Sumner

Anonymous said...

Don't low income people get food stamps? I would never want to deny a hungry child but is this a job for schools? Is this why we can't pay teachers a decent salaries?