January 19 2012
The Chicago Public School Inspector General has found the local school lunch program is "ripe for fraud and abuse" because of layers of bureaucracy, incentives for high enrollment and minimal checks and balances. In one example, the IG found that more than a dozen school and city employees of a Chicago school submitted false applications for free or reduced-price lunches. The alleged offenders included teachers, teachers assistants, district employees, a security officer and two people in law enforcement, some of them earning six-figure salaries.
The Chicago Tribune did some of its own digging and found some shocking discrepancies between the percentage of students enrolled in federal welfare programs (that require proof of income) and those who get a free or reduced price lunch through the federal school lunch program (which does not require proof of income).
The eligibility requirements for food stamps and for free lunches are roughly the same: up to 130 percent of the poverty level, or $29,064 a year for a family of four. Yet the Tribune found that in at least 167 Chicago schools, the percentage of students receiving free lunches was at least 20 percentage points higher than the percentage enrolled in the country's two primary aid programs, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and Temporary Aid for Needy Families, or TANF. At North-Grand, the discrepancy was 41 percentage points, and six schools had gaps of 60 points or more, according to 2011 records released by the Illinois State Board of Education and CPS.
Now for a fun fact that might make you lose your lunch: In 2010, Congress added billions of your tax dollars to this broken program.