Is Free-for-All in the Cafeteria Good for All?

The New York Times suggested in a recent editorial that providing both free breakfasts and free lunches for all children would be a great thing, in part because a school population that is better nourished is “more ready to learn.”

While this seems intuitive, it may not be true. Universal free school breakfasts were studied more than a decade ago in a pilot project mandated by Congress. The surprising result:

“The evaluation found that universal-free breakfast participation had no significant effect on a broad array of measures, including attendance, tardiness, academic achievement, cognitive functioning, behavior, health status, food security and BMI. The study found a small but significant and negative effect on teacher-rated behavioral opposition among long-term participants in UF breakfast.” (USDA, 2004)

Proponents of free meals should think carefully before going down that path.

About John Charles

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3 Responses to Is Free-for-All in the Cafeteria Good for All?

  1. Bob Clark says:

    I am sure most parents can afford and should provide for their children’s breakfast and lunch needs. And for those who can’t easily afford, there is a ballooning federal program called food stamps you can use. You should also think before conception about your ability to provide for your offspring, maybe a real form of planned parenthood not the aborted kind of the semi-hideous organization called Planned Parent Hood.

    Besides, I much preferred my mom and dad’s tenderly made lunches I carried with me to school when I attended K-12. This also infused me with a sense of independence, rather than the government hand out message conveyed by our public schools broad based free breakfast and lunch programs.

  2. Bill says:

    Government-provided free meals is a bad idea not because of its effect on attendance or academic achievement, but because its just wrong to take from some to give to others.
    The sole purpose of government is to protect the freedom of everyone.
    Besides parents should be feeding their own children, not the government.

  3. Neil Huff says:

    During WWII my primary school in Long Beach CA planted, cultivated and reaped produce from our Victory garden to supply the cafeteria. Most schools did something similar in SoCal. It was a sizable garden and kids in 4th through 6th grades did an hr or two in the garden each week. Due to sunny CA’s weather, we had a constant supply of veggies during the school year that filled out the cafeteria budget.

    Poor kids received free lunches. I recall they handed over a card to be punched rather than the 0.12 or 13 cents the meals cost. I remember perfectly clearly the meals were set and there were no choices offered except for the small milk containers, white or chocolate. There was always a meat entre, two veggies, salad and a desert. All on one tray. We ate it. It was fine. One could bring lunch from home and many did so. But no one went hungry. There were NO fat kids in my generation. Only rarely did one see a fat adult. I have no idea why schools with some space no longer keep a garden with so much hunger (according to the news) and malnutrition. Surely some winter crops could be raised and the summer surplus preserved for the school sessions. Something can be done to enable people to help themselves without more government being the response to every perceived social/economic ill. People nearest to the problems need to be more creative in seeking solutions.

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