Why Are We Spending 84% More To Feed 2% Fewer Students?

school-lunch-trays

The Fargo Forum yesterday described the refusal by Republicans in North Dakota’s state House to replace federal milk funds for a third half-pint of milk a day with a state appropriation as “mean” and “stingy.”

“The callousness is startling, disappointing,” wrote the Forum editorial board with their typically unthinking sort of intemperance. Of course, the Forum doesn’t mention that the kids are already getting a pint of milk a day, or that the feds seem to have moved the funding for a third half-pint of milk a day into a fresh fruit and vegetables program the funding for which has grown from nothing in 2008 to $1.7 million in 2012 (part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s war on fat kids) according to numbers obtained from North Dakota’s Department of Public Instruction (see below).

The feds are spending less on extra milks and more on fruit and vegetables.

I’ve debated this issue on television and radio over the last week, and what astounds me is how many people refuse to listen to any reasonable argument. It’s milk for kids, they argue, as though that were some sort of a trump card to any factual, logical rebuttal. Certainly that seems to be the Forum’s position.

But there’s a larger problem here. Consider, for instance, that the federal government has taken over school nutrition programs. North Dakota’s share of school nutrition is just 3% of all dollars spent per the spreadsheet below provided by DPI. Federal funding for school lunch, breakfast and other nutrition programs was at $23.8 million and has grown by 84% since 2000…

graph

…while school enrollment has actually declined by about 2% (according to numbers from Legislative Council):

enrollment

The small portion of funding coming from the state increased too, going up 30% since 2000.

While the state engages in a political pie-throwing contest over a half-million dollar appropriation for a third carton of milk a day, nobody is asking why in the world the feds are spending 84% more (and the state is spending 30% more) to feed 2% fewer children.

I know it’s easier to just shout “it’s for the children,” but I like to think our legislators look a little deeper into these issues than that, and there are serious questions to consider. For one, why isn’t the massive increase in per-student funding for nutrition programs adequate? For another, are we really satisfied with the way the federal government is micromanaging what is on the lunch and breakfast trays of students in North Dakota?

We could have these debates, but it seems many would rather throw pies. Including our newspaper editors who, rather than helping inform the debate, are throwing pies of their own.

North Dakota School Nutrition Funding by

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • http://nofreelunch.areavoices.com/ Kevin Flanagan

    Haven’t we been told there is a childhood obesity epidemic? Don’t milk and juice contribute to that? Why aren’t the parents providing proper nutrition for their own children?

    • whowon

      Government thinks they are in charge of our children, some parents apparently agree. Why take on that responsibility, they are just your children.

  • headward

    I don’t remember getting a mid morning snack or breakfast at school. Chris Berg kept on saying how we wouldn’t run this Ferrari on water. Instead of a pint lets have the kids get a gallon of whole milk. The problem is that we’re paying like it’s a Ferrari but getting the horse power of a go cart. The only solution from the dems and media is to spend more money.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I remember getting snacks in kindergarten, but not after that. And I only remember one milk per day. The rest of the time it was water from the fountain.

      • headward

        Nothing like the iron taste of the water fountain when you had permission to get some. I still don’t know why there is a snack. I’m waiting for the 4-course meal for lunch.

  • Jonesy

    Food costs are probably the primary driver behind the increase in meal spending. Take peanut butter for example….

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      That’s a part of it, but food price inflation only went up about 2.5% per year through 2006, and about 4% per year after that (after the feds instituted the ethanol mandate, but I digress).

      http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40545.pdf

      So food price inflation only explains a small part of it.

      • Thresherman

        If we could break down how much is spent on administering the program and how that has increased, I think we would find the majority of the increase.

  • Drain52

    Another part of the picture to consider: According the the Census Bureau’s numbers, the number of families living in poverty in 2005 was 11.2%, last year it was 9%. So in addition to declining number of students, we also have declining poverty. The increase in those needing subsidized lunches comes not from true poverty levels, but because Hoeven (and now Dalrymple) have been steadily raising the qualifying threshold to 150% of poverty. They saw their client base decreasing and they couldn’t have that so they created a whole new definition of poverty.

  • Opinion8ed

    Kids who get free lunch also get free breakfast. So we have breakfast at 8am, then morning milk, then lunch milk, then free snacks after school. Are they taking this out of the families foodstamps/snap.. Since the schools are feeding these kids over half their meals?

  • Opinion8ed

    For those of you who have not been in a public school in a while during lunch, you can still get pizza, baked potatoes, giant Rice Krispie bars, sub sandwiches, soup, salad, fruit, milk, and of course bring food from home… Which is really frowned upon. If your aren’t comes to take to lunch or brings you something to eat you are treated like garbage just about banished from the school… It is all about the evening up of america

  • jimmypop

    “Why Are We Spending 84% More To Feed 2% Fewer Students?”

    inflation.

  • zipity

    “Shut up” they explained.

    It’s for the Children©

  • Camburn

    There is NO excuse not to fund the milk program.
    NO EXCUSE.

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