Everything is free! So is the mantra at Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. Money just magically appears out of thin air in the form of federal and state subsidies. The latest cause-celeb is universal free breakfast. The program initially was to provide low-income students with the most important meal of the day. But that came with a stigma. Now breakfast is free for everyone! Cindy Hobbs, executive director of child nutrition explains:
Hobbs says CMS can offer breakfast at no cost to families, without spending county money, because the federal program and state subsidies pay more than it costs to make breakfasts. Reimbursement depends on family income and school circumstances; 126 of 159 schools qualify for “severe need” rates of $1.85 per breakfast, the presentation says.
CMS spent about $1.61 per breakfast last year, but Hobbs says she expects to lower that to about $1.41 through “economies of scale.” Even students who don’t qualify for lunch aid get a 27-cent reimbursement for breakfast, she said.
Better be careful Ms. Hobbs. Mayor Bloomberg might target your program by broadcasting radio advertisements warning of the abuses of “free” meals.
While a growing number of urban schools and high-poverty districts are adopting universal breakfast, the New York City Health Department has raised concerns about obesity, refusing to expand the breakfast program after a study found that about one in five children were eating at home and at school. However, The New York Times reports that other cities using the program have not seen a rise in obesity.