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USDA Makes School Meals Free for All; South Dakota Still Issues Guidelines for Traditional Income-Based Lunch Programs

In another good move for farmers and eaters, the Biden Administration last April extended free school lunches for every student in every school district through this coming school year. What a deal! We feed every kid, we get rid of that whole messy “lunch-shaming” foolishness, we speed up the lunch line, and, as Senator Bernie Sanders notes in his explanation of his bill to make universal free school meals permanent, we help kids learn and grow:

Studies show that students with access to free breakfast have improved attendance rates and perform better in school. Free and accessible school meals have also [been] shown to reduce financial stress for students and families, improve health outcomes in students, reduce stigma associated with the programs, and lead to fewer behavioral incidents and lower suspension rates [links in original; Senator Bernie Sanders, “Universal School Meals Program Act: Bill Summary,” retrieved 2021.08.17].

Ohio, California, and Maine all dig free school meals. I can’t imagine why any state or school district would reject this fair and sensible policy. But just in case some South Dakota district is run by the local Taliban and wants to avoid federal and state entanglements (uh oh, Rapid City), the South Dakota Department of Education is issuing guidelines for how to operate a traditional school lunch program, complete with income guidelines, application and review requirements, appeals process….

But before I break out another blockquote, could someone just tell me why? WHY?!?Why would any school want to go back to incurring the overhead of keeping track of kids’ families’ income? Why would any school want to keep fussing with lunch cards and a whole unnecessary income stream requiring bookkeeping and auditing and daily processing? Why would any school choose to impose a fee schedule on its lunches when our tax dollars are all loaded up and ready to cover everyone’s bill?

Students, like an army, march on their stomachs. Close your cashboxes, open the lunch lines, and let’s feed all those students!


  1. Matt 2021-08-17 18:48

    There’s no such thing as a free lunch. -Milton Friedman

  2. Donald Pay 2021-08-17 19:11

    Freidman must have never seen the pigs at the trough in Pierre. There are lots of free lunches, just ask South Dakota Legislators. Not just lunches, but dinners, booze, etc. What’s good for the slimy SD Legislators ought to be OK for the kids, right?

    Besides, you can stay well fed by eating the scraps that drop into your gullet from the capitalist system. When I was a little low on funds, I used to go to boat shows, Albertson’s, bars at happy hour, etc. Free hot dogs, free food samples, free tacos. None of it stolen, just letting the system feed me. I attended weddings and wedding shows: free food.

    Then there is the food nature provides. Free.

  3. Porter Lansing 2021-08-17 19:50

    South Dakota.
    Sit down and shut up.
    This is America talking.
    The group elected Joe “Steady” Biden and Joe Steady says the group is going to share the cost of kid’s lunches.
    If you don’t like it, vote for Nazi Noem for Chancellor.

  4. John 2021-08-17 19:55

    While saluting this humanity . . . it’s worth noting that we no longer have a metric measuring the immediate local poverty: the numbers and percents of public school kids qualifying for free lunches. This sad metric gave us real, local metrics for local poverty.

    Certainly it’s outstanding the lunch shaming is gone. This human measure is a tremendous win for the kids and all of us.

    The lose of this metric will not obliterate child poverty. Yet, its a huge step in the correct direction.

  5. Lottie 2021-08-17 20:04

    Im so glad all kids get free lunches. Growing up in the 50s on our rez with 10 sibs, mom and dad struggled. If we didn’t eat at mealtime we missed out. Seems like i was always hungry. Plus we always walked to school and i graduated just fine.

  6. Guy 2021-08-17 20:08

    $2 Trillion we blew on a war in Afghanistan that helped land us into the large debt hole we are still in. However, we have a problem with funds to feed some of our people and build affordable housing for them. Just for a moment, can you imagine if we never set foot in either Iraq or Afghanistan and actually spent those trillions of dollars to help our own people? The affordable homes we could have built by now along with safer roads, bridges, a hardened electric grid and a vast rural broadband network? Imagine ALL of the people who would no longer be homeless, including veterans, and access to nutritious food. But, alas, we had to blow it on two destructive and thankless wars that accomplished very little in the decades we fought them. Just imagine if we had learned from Vietnam how far ahead we would be as society today. . .

  7. O 2021-08-17 20:11

    Matt, Friedman, who you quote, was a great believer in the free market — not the government — being the answer to all ills. As is most often the case, there is a WIDE gap between economic philosophy and actual application.

    So tell me, what non-government/free market entity that the “big bad government” is now pushing out of the way was working to fill the stomachs of hungry school children? From my observation, hungry children don’t care about abstract economic philosophy; but once adequately fed, they may be willing to give it a listen.

    I agree that “lunch” (as a metaphor) is not free, but when do we as a civilized society get to have a real discussion about who ought to be picking up the check?

  8. mike from iowa 2021-08-17 20:17

    By ignoring poverty and its effects on school age children allows magats to carry on wishing for more and bigger tax cuts to tax scofflaws.

    Taliban is the recipient of the billions of dollars wasted in Afghanistan. Keep an eye on drumpf crime family trying to finagle a deal with them to promote drumpf’s name on Kabul and other important sites. Where ever a buck be, drumpf will surely be after it.

  9. DaveFN 2021-08-17 20:20

    Aaron Director was a professor at the University of Chicago Law School and his sister Rose married Milton Friedman. My great aunt Jennie Austin, daughter of the anarchist Kate Austin friend of Emma Goldman, was close friends with Aaron and his wife Katherine in Chicago.

    Milton Friedman always maintained he did not invent the phase, noting “I have sometimes been associated with the aphorism “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” which I did not invent. I wish more attention were paid to one that I did…”Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own.”

    But to Cory’s point, indeed, every kid deserves a free lunch.

  10. Guy 2021-08-17 20:24

    Yeah, blame President Biden…blame President Trump…blame President Obama…but who is the man who actually set this all into motion? Is he home on his ranch down in Texas, painting portraits to console his soul while he sits by and lets Biden, Trump and Obama take all the criticism and blame. Of course he is, probably with a wide Texas grin, along with his former Vice President. Their silence says everything as their brutal war legacy has been shown to be a HUGE FAILURE. You probably won’t hear from Bush & Cheney for awhile as the media rips into Biden, Trump and Obama on a daily basis.

  11. Porter Lansing 2021-08-17 20:54

    There’s no doubt about the fact that USA’s failure in Afghanistan is the fault of Geo W Bush.

  12. DaveFN 2021-08-17 21:40

    Guys and gals, try to stay on the topic of Cory’s respective posts? Maybe? Focus, focus, focus.

  13. Porter Lansing 2021-08-17 22:12

    What does the FN stand for, Dave?

  14. grudznick 2021-08-17 22:16

    Might stand for “From Nebraska.”

    But I always think of the acro FNG.

  15. Porter Lansing 2021-08-17 22:37

    Is that because you want to be the FNG on this blog, grudzky?

  16. Guy 2021-08-17 22:54

    DaveFN, the topic of funding is some way linked to the War on Afghanistan. We wasted all that money on funding for the Iraq War and Afghanistan War that could have been put to better use on funding the programs Cory is discussing. Let us not ignore that giant elephant in the room called: the trillion dollars in debt from war spending that could have been spent on free school meals for all and our crumbling infrastructure. It seems nobody wants to discuss the HUGE misplaced spending on 2 wars that got us nothing, but, made the defense contractors wealthy. I respectfully apologize for bringing that up.

  17. V 2021-08-18 05:36

    Let’s remember that it takes a village to raise children and it’s their right to be educated. I heard the way to a child’s mind is through their stomach so provide good food and they will come.

    When our school set up a fruit and salad bar, attendance improved with students AND staff. Snacks were available in the afternoons during that 6th hour lull. Such a conducive environment for learning.

  18. Mark Anderson 2021-08-18 08:55

    Yeah Matt, Milton also thought China would get more liberal if they opened up their economy.

  19. Guy 2021-08-18 09:01

    V, you are correct. Food is one of the most basic needs for our survival. We have a better nation if we have well fed people, including school children. Survival always starts with a full stomach of nutritious food. Most of us pay taxes and I am more than happy that some of my taxes are helping to fund meals for all school children.

  20. cibvet 2021-08-18 11:26

    Guy, I’m with you on paying taxes to fund meals, but remember it is those who don’t pay taxes and receive subsidies that do the most complaining.

  21. Eve Fisher 2021-08-18 12:58

    So glad that all students in South Dakota can get a free lunch – for some, it will be their only meal of the day.

  22. Darrell Solberg 2021-08-18 15:57

    It is so disheartening that those privileged ones want things only for themselves. DOE and Noem need to wake up to the needs of all people in S.D. rather than just their chosen few!!! EDUCATE our future leaders by following and utilizing USDA’S offer!! It seems that would help the farmers, children, and those struggling economically!!! It’s amazing the public has already forgotten the $500,000 that she funneled to the family ranch and the additional $100,000 funneled to her brothers for another corporation. All the trips outside of S.D. campaigning for Trump, at who’s expense? The enormous amount of money spent on HER SHOW at Mount Rushmore July 3, 2020, AGAIN AT THE SOUTH DAKOTA TAXPAYERS EXPENSE! it always has been Kristie first and everyone else last! While who cares, she sure doesn’t! Oh, lets not forget her others miscues, failure to properly fund education in S.D., failure to expand Medicaid, her stalling of the Medical Cannabis law that was soundly voted in by the voters of S.D and legalizing Cannabis in S.D. which again was past by the voters. DON’T let her TV ad fool you, it is meant to stall things until her and the legislature can find a way to overturn the voters AGAIN. It is really sad, when she can bend the truth with a straight face!!

  23. Guy 2021-08-18 18:55

    Darrell, “God Save Our Queen”.

  24. John 2021-08-18 20:29

    President Biden ordered the Education Department to take action against the governors who banned mask mandates. Of course that will not protect the Rapid City students from their Taliban anti-mask board., but will protect millions of other students.

    Lose a few million bucks and it might change the hearts and minds of school boards and governors – taking care of the kids be damned.

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