NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Kids who get reduced-price lunches in the Wausau School District will now get free before-school breakfast. The school district announced the policy change yesterday. Only one-third of the kids who get discount lunches eat breakfast at school. The District would like to increase those numbers.
But the entire underlying premise hasn't been examined, and may be flawed. The policy is based on the assumption that kids are arriving at school hungry. And, for a small group of kids, that may be the case. But there's no reason to jump to that conclusion. Other explanations for low participation in the school-breakfast program are far more likely.
Before we go spending tax dollars to serve more corn flakes, english muffins and orange juice, lets consider some other possibilities. Maybe kids aren't eating breakfast at school because they're eating at home. Or because school already starts earlier than most parents' jobs, so getting them to school early for a meal is inconvenient. Or because breakfast is the cheapest meal of the day, even poor parents can afford it. Or because kids prefer the sugar-cereals they can get at home which are off-limits in a school cafeteria. Or because most school buses arrive too close to first-bell for kids to eat breakfast. Any of these, or a combination of all of them, explains why there's minimal interest in school breakfast.
But what's the big deal about giving breakfast for free if there's a federal grant to cover it? Here's why: the federal grant starts out in our paycheck, yours and mine. Our employer pays an accountant to make the proper deductions and to send that money to Washington. Congressional aides and White House staffers put together a budget. Congressional leaders debate it and vote on it. A portion is given to the U.S. Department of Education. They debate how much will be devoted to school lunch grants. (They may get some advice from nutrition experts, or commission a study on the issue.) States and school districts then apply for federal grants. They collect income data from the families in their district, process the paperwork, and determine how many kids are eligible for the program. They submit that number to Washington, and they get a grant.
Wanna bet all that costs more than the 30-cents the kids are charged for breakfast?
Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau