Wisconsin School District Opts Out Of A Free & Reduced Meal Program Saying Students Could Become 'Spoiled'

Photo: Shutterstock / Daniel Zuo
Wisconsin School District Opts To Reject Free Meals Funding

Waukesha is the only school district in all of Wisconsin to opt-out of a federal free meals program for all public school children, regardless of their family’s economic status.

Parents are distraught. What is the point of opting out of federal funding that could keep bellies full?

One board member's claim that the service might cause children to "become spoiled" betrays an ignorance to the needs of schoolchildren.

Waukesha School District in Wisconsin plan to reject federal funds for free meals.

The school board voted — unanimously — to return to the National School Lunch Program which existed before the pandemic.

The National School Lunch Program requires families to fill out an application for free or reduced lunch — if their income is low enough to meet the criteria.

The United States Department of Agriculture initially launched its Seamless Summer Option meals program to help families cope with the financial struggles that the coronavirus pandemic caused.

SSO ensures that free or reduced lunches are available to all students without any income requirements.

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The departments has offered an extension of the program which has now been rejected by Waukesha. 

Waukesha school board members claimed the program could make kids 'spoiled.' 

"I had three kids, I had them and so I'm going to feed them,” School board member Karin Rajnicek said. “I feel like that's the responsibility of the adult.

What Rajnicek failed to consider is that the process of applying for free and reduced lunch is overwhelming, especially for a family that is struggling financially.

Or perhaps, there are kids who do qualify for free lunch, but are unaware that the free and reduced lunches are available to them.

"I feel like this is a big problem, and it’s really easy to get sucked into and become spoiled and think, it’s not my problem any more,” Rajnicek continued, “it’s everyone else’s problem to feed my children."

But if the funding is already available, what’s the point of opting out of it?

Waukesha district CFA said he doesn’t want families to become dependent on free meals.

Darren Clark, Waukesha district CFO, agreed that free and reduced meals should not be provided for all children.

"That’s my fear is that it’s the slow addition of this service," he said. "There is that concern — free is a funny thing."

Board members are confident that opting out of free or reduced meals for all will help those in need.

An application process might seem simple to some, but for others, it’s just more hoops to jump through.

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Asking for food is not the same as being spoiled. 

Having an appetite is not a personality trait.  

Reportedly, when lunch was free for all students in the Waukesha school district, participation in the lunch program increased by approximately 37%.

Karen Tredwell, Executive Director of the Waukesha County Food Pantry, claimed that participating in a federally funded program has no downside.

"My concern is that not only are they not participating in a program that could greatly benefit their students,” she said, “there is not going to be any positive benefit to taxpayers in the county if they don’t participate.”

The board's decision has even prompted a Change.org petition in the hopes to convincing the district to change their mind. 

Waukesha is allowed to opt back into the federal program, whenever they please. 

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Izzy Casey is a writer who covers pop culture, news, and entertainment for YourTango.