TRENTON – Four New Jersey lawmakers have called for an investigation of the federally-subsidized lunch program for children from poor families at Elizabeth’s public schools after the Star-Ledger reported allegations that some school officials’ children had been enrolled even though their parents’ incomes exceeded program requirements.
“We fully support the school lunch program for children from low income families. To restore confidence in its integrity, we ask for a swift and thorough investigation of its implementation by the Elizabeth School District,” wrote state Sen. Raymond J. Lesniak, Asm. Joseph Cryan and Asw. Annette Quijano in a letter to a variety of federal and local officials, including the U.S. and state attorney generals and the Union County prosecutor.
Republican state Sen. Michael Doherty, a member of the Budget Appropriations Committee, asked the state’s acting Commissioner of Education to look into the matter. “As the number of children enrolled in the free or reduced price lunch program directly impacts the amount of formula aid provided by New Jersey’s struggling taxpayers, I ask that you investigate this matter thoroughly,” Doherty wrote. “If the allegations are found to be accurate, I believe that the sanctions imposed upon the offenders must by as harsh as the law allows.”
Doherty also asked the state attorney general to investigate the federal school lunch program in Elizabeth and across the state.
The National School Lunch Program is intended to provide nutritionally-balanced lunches for children from low-income families. To qualify for reduced price lunches, a family of four can make no more than $41,348 per year. To qualify for free meals, a family of four can make no more than $29,055 per year, according to federal guidelines.
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