News: More students relying on free meals

More and more students are relying on their school to provide them with a meal during the day. I scan the news for information about school lunch and I can tell you that virtually every day there is at least one article about a community experiencing a surge in students in participation in the free or reduced price lunch program (i.e. St. Louis, Pennsylvania, Georgia). Why now? Well, even though I guess there are signs that the economy is improving (please make it be true), I think that any rebound is going to take years. I believe we are currently suffering the effects of what happened a few years ago.

It makes me mad that children have to suffer when adults make mistakes — and I’m not talking their parents here. I’m talking the banks and the sub-prime mortgage schemes. And I’m talking about the stock market. People rolling the dice with the economic stability of our country and now families are out of work and don’t have enough money for food. The current downswing in the economy has disproportionally affected young families. Families that are just starting out…

Don’t get me wrong — I’m so grateful that schools are set up to provide food for children in need. Kids are hungry and I see it at my school. I’m furious with the corporations and investment banks that took chances with our country’s financial future and now many citizens are worse off.

At first I thought the #occupywallstreet people were crazy. But now I can’t help but wonder if they are channeling how many of us are feeling. People have lost money, their jobs, their life savings, their retirement accounts, and their homes. I’m willing to bet that you have also been affected — my family has not been spared. And now more families don’t have enough money to pay for or send their children with lunch. Of course then you can only imagine if they have food for other meals at home.

When kids are impacted, you know I’m going to get mad. Isn’t this supposed to be America? The next person who grumbles about the cost of the school lunch and how parents should “just pack” is really going to get it.

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17 thoughts on “News: More students relying on free meals

  1. Don’t families that are so low income qualify for food stamps? I got food stamps not too long ago and we were eating like kings. I got more than I knew what to do with. For a family of 4 I was getting $689 a month!! Even when I was in transition to not qualifying I still got almost $500 a month. I could afford to buy all of my food at the higher end grocery stores, farmers markets and all organic and still had some left over at the end of the month. My kids got free lunch at school so I was only feeding them breakfast and dinner. They are not home every other weekend so feeding them on the weekends was only 2-3 times a month.

    I don’t get food stamps anymore and no longer qualify for free lunch. My kids still eat free at school because we do get reduced lunch and our school treats it as free lunch. What I’m trying to say is when I was on food stamps we had more money for food. It’s the poor working class who suffers the most. Maybe you could do a post on this? I’d love to hear another view on this subject.

    1. My inlaws got food stamps a year ago. For a family of three, they got around 600 a month. At the end of the month, they would go to the grocery and buy foods to stock up their pantry. Us on the other hand, my husband an accountant and me a musician, stretch to spend 60 a week, 360 a month in food. We eat mostly natural/organic and meat once a week and we can’t go a penny higher. I watched a man at the grocery store once brag that he was having a seafood bake at his house. He bought 300 dollars worth of seafood at the grocery store and whipped out his SNAP card. There is no free lunch for my daughter, we make too much. So free, I totally get you. It seems that the working class suffer sometimes.

      1. Actually, based off the math, if you’re spending 360 a month, you’re spending 90 per week. A family of 3 on full food stamps, complete assistance, is probably getting a little less than 600 dollars per month. You’re spending $1.90 per person per meal for you and your husband. Your friend’s family of 3 is spending about 1.97 per person per meal.

        I’ve estimated that for myself and my wife, we spend about $2.40 per meal per person, but we are always trying to eat lots of fruits and veggies and such.

        So they’re probably not living that high on the hog. and neither are you.

      2. The problem is some people on food stamps can’t cook and use their limited funds to buy convenience foods like TV dinners and snack food. Additionally they waste money by not shopping around. If you cook from scratch, comparison shop, and use coupons a family of 10 could live like kings on $600 a month.

    2. Your family of four was surviving on a rather modest amount of money. If you only used those EBT benefits, you’re spending $1.85 per person per meal. I’m sure you were able to buy just enough food for your family that noone went hungry, but I don’t quite see how your house was able to feast like kings as you assert.

      Also, the amount you’re qualifying for indicate that you were probably barely surviving paycheck to paycheck, in that the amount of money you made a month was barely enough to cover cost of living, and you probably had $0 savings from your paycheck.

      Also, you probably had the good fortune of being able to go to a real grocery store, not a convenience store like 7-11. People who live in ghettos can’t drive to real grocery stores where they sell real food at reasonable prices.

      1. Tsvi- I don’t think $689 a month for a mother and 3 small children is a modest amount at all.Especially when 1/3 of their meals are away from home and not included in the budget.

        You are right about 1 thing though. I was barely making it. I had no cash for anything but food was never a worry.

        I didn’t mean to step on any toes with my post. I was just trying to point out that the very poor children should be getting fed at home because of food stamps.

        1. With all due respect I’m sure you don’t think it’s a modest amount, but I feel the numbers I crunched speak for themselves. Really if you average out what a lot of people in these comments claim they live on month to month (regardless of how much or little assistance they receive), Food stamps, more or less, provide the right amount people need to live on. Also, to clear up another misconception, people don’t need to spend all their EBT benefits at the end of the month. Those benefits DO roll over, but that’s only in the rare instance you don’t spend all your EBT benefits.

      2. They can ride a bus to anywhere in town for a low monthly bus fee which in some cases can be had for free if you are on assistance.

  2. My daughters went to a school that had 90% of the student body received free or deduced lunches. I did send lunches until I lost my better paying job then got a low paying job I had to use the lunches so we could eat other meals.. PS I ate at work: it was free when I worked… so the reduced lunch helped us. It makes me so mad when I hear the common attitude that people getting food stamps should be drug tested cause I was drug tested to get my job… that people working still sometime need help to buy FOOD

    1. The application for school lunches is based on whatever numbers you put on the form. Nobody actually checks. That’s why in many school districts the majority of kids get free food.

      1. Actually, I am a food service manager (lunch lady) and applications are checked randomly….every year, during the fall, 3 % of the lunch applications are pulled from the computer and the applicant has 1 month to provide proof of income..if they do not comply, their child is moved back to full pay and will remain at full pay status until the parent complies…so, not all of the applications are checked (it would be impossible..our district receives 20,000 every school year) but your could win the school lunch lottery and your app could be pulled for verification!!

  3. I recently saw on TV lunch ladies talking about how Monday is the day they make their biggest lunches to try to make up for the lack of food some children receive at home over the weekend. We now qualify for free lunch, and I was getting $289 in food stamps for our family of three. I got a new job, that paid slightly better, however my out of pocket for my medical coverage was higher, so in essence I make no more money than my last job, so my fs dropped to $218.

  4. Hi Mrs. Q. – I guess I’m going to get it then….although I hope not. 🙂

    I do feel that people, when they choose to have a family, are responsible for that family’s physical and emotional well-being; this includes shelter, food, and guidance on how to be a contributing citizen. I understand that people’s situations change; everyone experiences hardship, however, part of demonstrating how to be a contributing citizen is modeling behaviors like financial responsibility, work ethic, doing whatever it takes to provide for your family, and helping others.

    I don’t understand how able-bodied, work-force-ready families who expect free lunches, accept food stamps, and other social assistance can choose to pay a cell-phone bill before they make sure that their children are well-fed. Also, if it is a matter of not having enough time, these families certainly make the time to pick up their food stamps, make the time to apply for other aid, and so on.

    Personal values, in many cases, are not being modeled to the children of these families. I chose to not have children because I know I like my own money, my own time, and to be able to make decisions for my life’s path without considering a family. I make good choices and resent when others do not and expect me to make up the difference.

  5. I agree that it is the working class that suffers the most. The people who make enough to only cover their basic expenses and have trouble having enough money for food, but make too much to qualify for reduced/free lunches and food stamps.

    @ Elizabeth: I understand your opinion but life isn’t that black and white and this post isn’t talking about people who take advantage of the system. I don’t understand why food isn’t just supplied for free for everyone at school. We pay a tremendous amount per pupil for our failing schools and I think GOOD food should be a right for every student. I think that Mrs. Q is trying to say that children shouldn’t suffer because anyones problems or irresponsibility. A child shouldn’t go hungry because a parent couldn’t afford food, whether the parent was careless with finances or not. Not everyone who NEEDS help is irresponsible. There are plenty of people who were once comfortable, but lost their job or took a pay cut so now they are struggling.

    It’s unfair that multi million/billion dollar corporations/businesses are having record breaking sales, all the while cutting jobs and wages so they can be uber billionaires. Not to mention all the tax breaks and bail outs. (And sending jobs overseas!)

    I don’t really get your comment about applying for aid or picking up food stamps. I don’t see how that is getting mixed in with the topic. I do feel annoyed when I see people using food stamps and then whipping out their Iphone or droid. I can’t even afford these things but who am I to judge. Its one thing to have a cell phone, I would think a basic phone with a basic plan is a necessatity these days and most people have abandoned land lines, as basic cell phone service is not terribly expensive. I do find it excessive that you can’t afford food but you have an Iphone.

    But for the most part if you want to talk about people taking advantage of the system, you want to look at the people ABOVE you not BELOW you. The couple hundred dollars a month a family gets in food stamps is nothing compared to how gas companies/corporations rob us blind.

  6. Crystal: I get food stamps and I am on disability. I also have a droid phone that I paid for myself with my disability money (that I coincidentally had to save for months because disability pays crap) and it kind of bothers me that people like you have room to judge. According to you I should not have nice things because I am disabled and getting assistance? That sounds rather unfair. Like you said, not everything is in black and white. I also chose not to have children because of the lifestyle I am forced to lead because of the disability and it is unfair to raise a child in a scenario where you’re barely making enough to scrape by.

  7. The EBT program is Federally mandated but overseen by state gov’t. So some states are more liberal with how much EBT they give out compared to others. Also, it could be based off of Cost of Living. If you live in West Virginia, you don’t need a lot of food stamps because food is cheap. If you live in California, you need more EBT. Also, of course, cost of living in terms of Housing, healthcare, etc. are factored in.

    My wife and I got the full amount of Food stamps when we lived in Massachusetts because we were making less per month than our rent. the full EBT amount was 367 dollars. Groceries cost is $100 per week. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, food is expensive. We make everything from scratch, dried beans, etc. We make sure to buy fruits and vegetables. We shopped at Costco which actually saved us a lot of money. Regular grocery stores are overpriced.

    We live in Utah now. We only get half the amount even though we don’t make much more money. We probably spend about $ 80 per week on food now plus we go to food banks. They have Winco’s and Costco’s here, but believe me, food prices are just going up and up.

    Now I don’t mind food banks, but only some of them apparently have fresh produce if you’re lucky.

    So essentially, for two people, the full amount of food stamps, federal maximum, is 367 dollars per month, last I checked according to the social workers. Basically, the federal gov’t has estimated that a typical human in this country can survive on meals that cost $2.03 per meal or about $6 per day. And that’s for people who are so poor they are basically on the verge of being homeless and have no earned income they can contribute to buying groceries. And when we see ads that complain about people living on a dollar a day in a third world country, keep in mind that there are people in America who may or may not be able to sustain themselves on 6 dollars a day. And clearly, life in America is much more than 6 times expensive than it would be to live in a starving nation in the 3rd world. DISCLAIMER: your money does not go very far if you can’t get to a good grocery store and stock up. If you don’t have a car, and you live too far from a grocery store, you won’t have the luxury of buying in bulk. You may have no choice but to live off of junk food from a bodega or gas station. That’s more expensive than going to Costco or Winco, and you know what, the food is much worse for your health.

    If anybody out there has kids and gets a huge amount of food stamps, well good! I’m not going to look down on people who get plenty of funding to keep their children from going hungry. This is a first world nation, Troglodyte republicans withstanding.

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