Free is all about perspective. As reports, the bill that just passed the Assembly and Senate is changing New Jersey’s reduced price lunches to free lunches, but it’s free only to the 518,000 families off the hook for paying for them. For the rest of us we’re chipping in to raise their kids and it’s not fair.

Sad thing about this is for some lawmakers this was a partial answer to ‘lunch shaming,’ the practice of schools offering tuna fish sandwiches or some other less desirable lunch than the normal fare to students whose parents aren’t putting money in their accounts. So they feed the kids anyway. How dare they! Right? The ‘stigma’ of the other kids seeing they have the lunch debt food is where the shaming is said to come in.

So let’s look at that. A family of four making less than $33,475 already gets a free lunch. A family of four making $33,475 to $47,638 qualifies for reduced lunches. The cost to that family per lunch? Only 40 cents. So you had a child and can’t afford even $2 a week to feed your kid? These same families would already qualify for WIC by the way.

The point is we had a formula. No one wants to see poverty but we had a formula for it. This was the amount at which you earned that it was agreed you should be able to at least provide $2 a week to take care of and feed your child. The failure to do so is now put on the backs of the rest of us who actually struggle and pay our bills.

$4.5 million dollars in not-so-free lunches. A million here a million there. Pretty soon you’re talking real money.

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