Yes, there is such a thing as a 'free lunch' in New York City

New York city will offer free lunches to every student this year, regardless of need or ability to pay.  Officials say that because some parents don't fill out the paperwork necessary for eligible students to receive the benefit, they decided to make lunch free for all.

CBS New York:

"Students need healthy meals to stay focused in school, and it is a major step forward that every New York City student will have access to free breakfast and lunch every day," Fariña said in a statement. "Free School Lunch for All will provide financial relief to families and ensure all students are receiving nutritious meals so that they can succeed in the classroom and beyond."

"We know that students cannot learn or thrive in school if they are hungry all day," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. "Free school lunch will not only ensure that every kid in New York City has the fuel they need to succeed but also further our goal of providing an excellent and equitable education for all students."

About three-quarters of the city's 1.1 million public school students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch under federal guidelines. But many eligible kids haven't received the free meals, often because parents neglect to fill out the required paperwork.

Advocates for child nutrition have long urged the city to ensure universal access by making lunch free for everyone.

Several other U.S. school districts including Boston and Detroit already offer free lunch for all.

School officials are correct.  Numerous studies have shown a direct correlation between full stomachs and academic achievement.

But it would  be far cheaper to identify those students who are eligible for the benefit under the current federal school lunch program and get the parent or parents to fill out the paperwork than give wealthy and upper-middle-class kids the same free lunch that is given to poor students.  The number of kids who fall through the cracks because their parents are unaware of what they have to do or are incapable of filling out a few forms has to be relatively small.  Why burden the taxpayer by subsidizing rich kids' lunch when that money could be used to actually educate children?

Also, any mention of "nutritious meals" brings to mind the spectacular failure of Michelle Obama's nutrition mandates for school lunches.  The organization representing cafeteria workers put it plainly:

Studies show that public school students aren't eating what cafeterias are serving, turning many operations into money-losers. While the school districts can opt out, doing so results in federal subsidy cuts for those programs.

"Overly prescriptive regulations have resulted in unintended consequences, including reduced student lunch participation, higher costs and food waste. Federal nutrition standards should be modified to help school menu planners manage these challenges and prepare nutritious meals that appeal to diverse student tastes," a new policy paper from the association said.

Some schools reported 50% of food being thrown out.  Free lunch for those who need it is fine.  But what good is it if the kids don't eat it?

This is a classic big-government solution to a problem that demands a more circumspect policy.  But what fun is it if you can't spend other people's money on free stuff?

If you experience technical problems, please write to