Last year, the Toledo Public School district held a pilot program offering subsidized breakfasts for all students. The program continues officially this year with free food for every student and school officials cite several benefits to be excited about.
The Toledo Blade reports officials with TPS saying that by extending a free food offering to every student, needy students eligible for federal subsidies would not feel stigmatized. They also believe increasing the amount of students eating breakfast in general reduces tardiness and need for disciplinary action.
“That is what’s awesome about it,” TPS Business Manager James Gant said to the Blade.
The Blade reports during the pilot program, the number of students eating breakfast before school grew from 25 percent to 75 percent.
In addition to reducing stigmatization and improving punctuality, the school district believes the program will help make them money in the long run. The Blade reports that school only gets reimbursed by the government's meal programs if the students eat the meal. This means that by encouraging all students to eat breakfast at the school, it will bring in enough of those eligible for subsidies that "any money lost by feeding students who aren’t subsidized is less than made from federal reimbursements," the Blade explained.
Although this is a localized issue, subsided meal plans have been in the spotlight lately as Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, a candidate for the senate who has been lambasted for comments recently regarding the likelihood of pregnancy following rape, said he opposes the National School Lunch Program. The Kansas City Star has more on Akin's reasoning:
“Is it something the federal government should do?” Akin said. “I answer it no. … I think the federal government should be out of the education business.”
He said Thursday [of last week] that providing food to students at school should not be a federal responsibility.
“Why not do it at the state level?” he asked. “I’m not against school lunches, but I have a question whether the federal government should be doing as many things as it’s doing, and that would be one to take a look at.”
Akin is not alone with this sentiment as other Republicans have expressed similar positions regarding federal involvement with school meals as well. Democrats though generally share the opinion of Akin's opponent, Sen. Claire McCaskill, who said she sees a value in the federally subsidized lunches and that while she wants the government to spend less money she doesn't "want to turn out the lights and go home on the most important parts of our economy.”
In FY2011, the National School Lunch Program cost $11.1 billion. For comparison purposes, the program cost $3.7 billion in 1990 and $6.1 billion in 2000.
It's not just schools that are trying to eliminate the stigmatization issue regarding subsidized lunches either. Last fall, TheBlaze introduced you to a project by Sesame Street using a character called Lily to talk about "food insecurity." Lily was then part of the "Food for Thought" campaign promoted by UnitedHealthcare and the Merck Company Foundation in December 2011.
Featured image via AP for C.H. Robinson.