All lunches should be free

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The recent decision by the federal government to make it easier for families to make their children eligible for free school lunches is wise and long overdue.

Eligible students will qualify automatically and the Ohio Department of Education will use lists of families that receive food stamps or state cash assistance to determine who will qualify.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, families who do not receive food stamps or cash assistance but are eligible based on their annual income will still have to fill out forms to take advantage of the program. A family of four must make less than about $39,000 to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

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Educators and legislators alike are becoming more familiar with the parallel between student performance and nutrition. With schools’ funding linked to student performance, it is in the best interest of the schools to make sure their students — all of their students — are receiving adequate meals at school.

And although the lessening of the restrictions is a step in the right direction, educators and lawmakers can do more.

Even though schools depend on the revenue from students who pay for their lunches, there is a fundamental argument to make that school lunches should be free for all students. After all, taxpayers foot the bill for the food and those who prepare it anyway.

Now educators and lawmakers need to find a solution to make sure lunches are free for every student. If the state mandates that children go to school, it should take the responsibility to feed them, and feed them based on the acceptable standards of nutrition set forth by health professionals.

Frankly, if the state is going to preach about nutrition and healthy eating for children, it should pick up the tab. And any way you cut it, there is no denying that this is another way for many parents to be double-taxed.