More than 100 government employees and elected officials defrauded the national school lunch program and stole free lunches for their children.
A two year investigation of 15 New Jersey school districts has revealed more than 100 government employees and their families lied about their incomes, applied for and received school lunch assistance for their children, and could face prosecution as a result.
“Dozens of public employees appear to have lied about their income in order to take advantage of a school program designed to help families in need,” State Comptroller Matthew Boxer said in a statement.
Altogether, the total underreported income by state employees amounts to more than $13 million. One Pleasantville elected school board member failed to disclose at least $59,000 of her family income over a three year period. When asked by the comptroller’s office why she had done it, the woman said she didn’t report it because she wasn’t the one receiving the free lunch. She also said that her income was “none of (the school district’s) damn business.”
In fact, it most definitely IS the business of the school board, the state comptroller and the taxpayer’s business to know where and how the school lunch program money is being spent, which is why Boxer led the two year investigation.
“We took on this project because we were concerned about the ability of public employees to use their knowledge of the workings of the free lunch program to improperly obtain benefits,” Boxer said. “Those who know the rules of the program have a greater opportunity to submit a fraudulent application and avoid any scrutiny.”
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie weighed in on the report via his spokesperson saying that every employee who lied about their incomes should be “fired and prosecuted.”
According to CBSPhilly, whose original reporting cited only 83 violations but have since been adjusted upwards of 100 incidents, the investigation found structural flaws within the Nation School Lunch Program, championed by First Lady Michelle Obama.
“Federal law doesn’t require proof of income along with the application and generally requires school districts to verify the validity of the 3 percent of applications whose reported incomes are closest to the eligibility limit. Districts are prohibited from verifying the remaining 97 percent unless fraud is suspected.” (CBSPhilly)
The federal school lunch program has come under scrutiny in recent years as school districts attempt to abide by new nutritional standards in the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act. With mandated smaller portion sizes and higher costs, districts are finding it difficult to “sell” the program to parents and students who are either throwing the school lunches in the trash or bringing lunch from home.
The full extent of the New Jersey investigation into lying government employees is yet to be seen as free and reduced lunch programs provide the necessary paperwork “verification” to apply for and receive other government assistance programs. The “Obamaphone” program, for instance, is available for anyone whose children participate in the federal school lunch program. Read more about the fraud in the Lifeline, also known as the “Obamaphone,” program here. Phones for Drugs
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