In the Detroit Free Press, Tammy Stables writes that a program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has selected Michigan as one of three pilot states for an initiative that allows schools that have at least 40% of its student body eligible for public assistance to provide meals to all students at no cost to families.
The idea behind the program is that students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch may feel stigmatized, and offering meals at no cost to all students eliminates that potential discomfort or embarrassment. Called the “Community Eligibility Option,” which is part of President Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the program is set to expand to all states beginning in the 2014-15 school year.
At Ricochet, Mollie Hemingway points out that there are consequences to ‘free lunch’ plans that few in the public arena or media examine. She suggests that there might be unintended consequences when the government absolves parents from such basic duties as providing meals for their children.
In addition to Hemingway’s criticism, commenters on several websites have wondered why it’s necessary to give meals to all students when the stigma and potential embarrassment of receiving subsidized meals can be eliminated by using a debit card system that makes moot the need for hand-to-hand monetary transactions.
Joanne Jacobs writes that the Free Press’s photo of a school lunch – which likely does not represent Detroit’s meal plan and is probably stock photography – just might “boost the demand for federal anti-obesity funding.”