It plays like one of those late-night public service announcements. "For just 70 cents a day, we can provide free lunch for children in New Jersey, who's parents are having trouble making ends meet." Cue Sara McLaughlin's "Angel" chorus. As NJ.com reports, the bill that just passed the Assembly and Senate is changing New Jersey’s reduced-price lunches to free lunches.

According to the article, "Students get free school meals if they come from a household that earns less than 130% of the federal poverty line (an annual income of less than $33,475 for a family of four). A four-person family that makes more than $33,475 and less than $47,638 qualifies for reduced-price lunch." It's not like those making 48,000 can afford it, but I guess they will just have to make do.

Now, we all know that there's no such thing as a "free lunch," somebody is paying for it. That somebody, of course, is we the people of New Jersey, who work multiple jobs in an economy where the unemployment rate is only 3.2% to be able to buy our kids lunch. I don't understand why it's our responsibility to provide free lunch for kids whose families can't afford it, especially when there are jobs to be had and they can always move to a cheaper state. But if we're going to go that route, then we should be providing it for all children.  We should also be able to find the money in what we're already spending.

Currently, the cost of the free lunch to the 518,000 families who qualify is 4.5 million. If we removed 2.1 million used to provide lawyers to help fight deportations, we're almost halfway there. There are also probably some salaries that could be turned into food money, perhaps through shared services.

What if schools sold the naming rights to the cafeterias in exchange for providing food? Would it be worth it for fast food and soft drink companies to have their logos throughout the school? They could also sell the ball field signs. We could also make a deal with the farmers. We could even set up a website and allow local businesses to make tax deductible donations

The money's there, we just have to look for it. If not, then we go with the plan where nobody gets a free lunch and if you want one, you have to plead your case.

Once upon a time, it was the people's responsibility to provide for their families. I guess here in New Jersey we've evolved from that.  I love the idea of providing free lunch for kids, all kids, as long as it doesn't cost we the taxpayers anymore that we're already spending.

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