No Free Milk

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Our kids qualify for free lunch at school, and we submitted the city's form for that at the beginning of the year. They've all been receiving free lunches all year. But Sophia decided a couple weeks ago to start bringing her lunch most days, mostly out of peer pressure because most of her friends do that. (If you don't qualify for free lunch, then it's much less expensive to send one with your child than to pay what the school charges. Have they already established bringing a lunch as a status symbol by kindergarten?)

The first few days, we sent juice with her at her request, but then she decided she wanted to drink the school milk with her lunch brought from home. A couple days ago a note came home saying that the lunch room says she needs to pay for 40 cents for milk. I sent a note back saying the lunch room is wrong, because she qualifies for free lunch and has had no problem all year. The teacher sent another note home saying we need to take it up with the lunch room.

It turns out they won't give her the free milk unless she signs up for a free lunch. Kindergarteners don't go to the cafeteria like the older kids. They have to order a lunch, which gets brought to their room. This was never been an issue for Ethan, because he just eats whatever the school lunch is. It was never an issue for Isaiah, because they take him through the lunch line, and he selects which particular items he wants, which is usually not very much. Then they get out the lunch he brings, and he eats some of those items with whatever (if anything) he wanted from the school lunch. He just brought a lunch in kindergarten anyway, because we didn't want them to have to deal with his pickiness and lactose issues until he could actually go through the line to select items. So Sophia is the first to want to bring a lunch while just drinking the milk from the school in the kindergarten setting, and we're just discovering the policy that she has to waste a whole lunch that she won't eat if she wants to get the free milk that she qualifies for.

Now I know they can make room for kids to get free milk without the lunch, because there are some kids who qualify for free milk but not free lunch. Since she qualifies for free lunch, she apparently can't get the free milk without ordering the whole tray of lunch (and she can't select just the items she wants, because kindergarteners don't go through the lunch line). It turns out one of the staff at the school is happy to eat her lunch when she doesn't want it, so maybe it's not so bad in the end, but this is a truly crazy policy. Why would they insist on a policy that requires a free-lunch student to waste a whole lunch to get the free milk she qualifies for on the days when she's brought her own lunch?

4 Comments

While I wouldn't bet my life on it, I would think it probably has something to do with however the Federal school lunch program works. I wonder if they can't get just the milk paid for from the Feds.

There are some kids who just get free milk but not free lunches. Apparently this problem doesn't arise for them, just for the ones who get the whole lunch for free.

I wouldn't doubt that if you're on the list for a full lunch, but not for free milk, then the only way they get reimbursed is if you take the full lunch. If they're honest, you didn't use the lunch if you only get the milk, so they wouldn't get reimbursed. I mean it makes sense that you should be able to use only part of the free lunch program, but I bet it doesn't work out that way in practice.

The kids who go into the lunch room can take individual items. It's the kids in kindergarten who eat in their classroom who can't do that. They actually have to order a lunch, and it gets taken to their classroom for them at lunch time. For those kids, and apparently only those kids, they charge ala carte for only milk even if they have free lunch.

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