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Free Lunch Bill
State Senate Considers Measure To Feed Every W.Va. Student At No Charge
March 28, 2013

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There are about 308,000 students in West Virginia's public schools.

In the last school year, they were served 50 million lunches and breakfasts. And the majority of those meals, 19 million lunches and 12 million breakfasts, were paid for by taxpayers. Federal reimbursement for the state's school meals program was nearly $79 million dollars.

State senators are considering a bill which would mandate every student be able to eat for free, regardless of their family's income. And that would cost millions more in private funding.

Now, nobody is arguing against lunch for kids. Lunch is a good thing. Everybody needs to eat lunch. And many studies show that kids who eat breakfast and lunch at school have better grades, fewer discipline problems and fewer absences.

But should we be paying for lunch for kids whose families make enough money to pay for it themselves? That's the question. If your mom and dad make a hundred thousand dollars a year why aren't they buying your lunch at school?

"And I don't disagree with that," Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, said. "I think the thought is just to make the program open to everyone so it's easier to administer but I agree with that concern. I mean, to me, we shouldn't necessarily be opening up to folks who clearly can afford to pay for it."

The bill requires every county school system to set up a non-profit foundation or fund . Then, the county could use private donations and grants to buy meals for students who don't qualify for free ones. No matter how much money their mom and dad make they would eat at no charge. Right now, income is looked at to see if a student should be in the free lunch program.

"60 percent of the kids are eligible but only about half participate so they're trying to push that up a little bit," Sen. Mike Hall, R-Putnam, said.

Hall was asked why don't we just administer the program better then and get those other 30 percent to eat?

"I asked that question in committee," Hall said. "Why do we need a law? I did ask that question and I don't think I got an absolutely clear answer as to why it couldn't be done now because it is being done in certain counties."

Some are characterizing this as a "feel-good" bill. Although it mandates feeding every schoolkid by 2015, it does not include any penalties if a county does not make the deadline...and it lets everyone off the hook if enough private money is not available.

How do you feel about the way West Virginia lawmakers are handling the school meal issue? Should every breakfast and lunch be paid for with a combination of public and private money?

Tell us what you think.

Stop by our Facebook page and join in on the conversation.




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