Parents committing school lunch fraud?

By: Kelly Asmuth Email
By: Kelly Asmuth Email

MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KKCO) - More than 16 million kids across the U.S. receive free or reduced priced meals at school but concerns have risen that some families in Mesa County, and throughout the country, could be taking advantage of the program.

Nearly half of the 21,000 students in District 51 take advantage of free or reduced price breakfast and lunch.

“Going out and visiting schools and seeing that some of these high free and reduced schools, seeing the kids coming through, you really see the need,” says District 51 Nutrition Services Director Dan Sharp.

The program is funded by more than $2 million in federal tax money. But one local mother says it's easy for parents to take advantage of the program.

“My third grader has been put on program three years in row by my ex–husband. And he shouldn't be on there, he doesn't live there. He doesn't qualify. I've had to call for three years now to get him removed,” says mother Myranda Hunter.

Parents self–declare their salary on the application form. But about 97 percent of those incomes aren't verified.

“The law requires that the school district take a sample of three percent of the applications that have been received,” says Jean Daniel with USDA Food and Nutrition Services.

Those families must submit pay stubs or other proof that they make as little as they claim.

“I can't imagine how many are taking advantage of this if only three percent are being checked. That's stealing our federal funds that could be going to other things,” says Hunter.

“On a national basis, we periodically hear stories where people are not declaring their entire income,” says Daniel.

Sharp says District 51 investigates any claims of dishonesty.

But in the meantime, taxpayers are left to wonder how many fraudulent cases go unreported.

Billions of taxpayer dollars are spent nationally each year on the USDA’s free or lower–priced school lunch program.

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  • by Angela Location: GJ on Oct 10, 2010 at 09:48 AM
    What about the fact that the schools get money from the government, that exceeds the cost that the lunches really cost. The Free and Reduced Lunches in some schools is a loop hole that the schools use to get extra money to come in. There is a charter scholl here that doen't even serve lunches, the parents have to pay for there kids to go there and they ask that you fill out the Free and Reduced forms. WOW, Wonder why.
  • by Cindy Location: Fruita on Sep 18, 2010 at 12:32 PM
    I agree with Chuck...the lunch program is way to easy to access. I reported to District 51, and individual that was receiving benefits that didn't need them. They said they needed proof, so I showed them the proof...she had neglected to show on her application, (which my attorney obtained) that she had an insurance settlement of over $350,000.00 that she was receiving in payments. They told me that they would give the info to their attorney, David Price. It's been a year now and I'm still waiting for Mr. Price to call. This individual should be paying restitution for a fraudulent application, but I would bet she's still receiving reduced and/or free meals.
  • by Paula Location: Douglas County on Sep 18, 2010 at 06:33 AM
    I found out my ex-wife fraudulently applied for reduced lunch for our son after he came home and was upset because the children were calling him a '40 cent' kid, i.e. the price for a reduced lunch. She's currently unemployed, but receives 2K a month from unemployment and 590 a month from me. I contacted Douglas County and they are now investigating her. Amazing thing is she serves as the Treasurer on the PTO and is trusted with school funds. Outrageous.
  • by Jennie Location: Junktown on Sep 15, 2010 at 08:10 AM
    Even though the welfare parents may believe that this is a "free" lunch, as a hardworking American taxpayer, and educated mother, I KNOW there is not. It is a romantic idea that we feed the hungry children, it is our children that may end up suffering, meanwhile, we pay for it...all of it. My 5th grader at Tope keeps coming home hungry, and tells me that they are running out of hot option so they get a sandwich and carrots. I pay full price for the school lunch, and am one of the few who does so. Is it right that I should have to pay for a lunch that my kid isn't even going to get? Then, I have to feed him again when he gets home. This is not only irrational, but counterproductive and unhealthy. Carrots and a sandwich, oh, and lets not forget the "yogurt" option (yogurt, string cheese, and a fruit cup) is a complete waste of nutritional value. Should my kids and my paycheck be shorted because some dishonest parent can't keep their lazy hand out of the proverbial cookie jar? Really?
  • by Susan on Sep 14, 2010 at 10:52 PM
    We are a family of 3, due to loosing my job we live on less than $1500 per month, and we do not receive foodstamps,we've been told we don't qualify,and our son receives free lunces. I know several families who do not receive foodstamps, yet their children receive free lunches. These are honest hardworking people. Why is it that just because a few abuse the system, everyone assumes that if you've got it, you abuse the system too? Well that's usually not the case. We use it because we need to. After paying all of our bills, we have $200 a month to spend on food. If I had foodstamps I would pack a lunch for my son, I wouldn't need free meals, he would already be getting them.
  • by Not living off the system Location: Grand Junction on Sep 13, 2010 at 06:00 PM
    We are a family of 6 and I can budget well enough that if I needed to, I could spend $400 a month on groceries. I just dont understand why the welfare system feels the need to provide so much for families. I know someone who sells her stamps to pay for her cigarettes. Nice to know us tax payers are supporting your habit!
  • by taxpayer Location: gj on Sep 13, 2010 at 03:45 PM
    i agree get off foodstamps get a job! or 2 !
  • by Taxpayer on Sep 13, 2010 at 02:35 PM
    In these hard times my family of 4 has been able to live with a grocery budget of $500 a month (and we seem to have enough to treat the kids to a happy meal acouple times a month). Nobody is hungry and everybody has a well rounded meal. Clip some coupons and cut back on the extras! You don't need $1000 a month in food stamps.
  • by Not Living off the System! Location: Grand Junction on Sep 13, 2010 at 12:46 PM
    If I received $1000 a month in food stamps, I would be happy to buy food for my children to pack for lunch. I feel there needs to be some adjusting in the amount of stamps and cash assistance people get.
  • by Taxpayer on Sep 13, 2010 at 10:29 AM
    Just a thought to posters below who are on food stamps.... Food stamps are to feed your family. Why should you be on food stamps and having the free lunch program on top of it. Seems like double dipping to me.
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