Free Lunches, Breakfasts, and PhDs.

13WHAM reports that all Rochester City School District students will now get their school lunches for free.

All RCSD Students To Receive Free Lunches – Rochester, N.Y.— Starting in the 2012-2013 school year, all Rochester City School District students—regardless of income—will get free lunch at school. According to RCSD, the district has qualified for a new state program called the Community Eligibility Option (CEO). RCSD qualified because the district already has so many students who qualify for free or reduced lunch. According to Jerome Underwood, the district’s senior director of operations, 62.5 percent of students in a district had to already be eligible for free or reduced lunch in order for districts to get CEO. In Rochester, about 89 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle goes further, it tells us that all will now also be eligible for free breakfasts.

Rochester students receive free breakfast, lunch – Democrat and Chronicle: All students in the Rochester City School District are now eligible to receive free breakfast and lunch during the 2012-2013 school year, regardless of income, according to the RCSD website.

And within a day a see a similar story with an interesting twist.

University Of Rochester Gets Grant To Help Disadvantaged Students – Rochester, N.Y. – The University of Rochester received a grant to help students with disadvantaged backgrounds. The 5-year, $1,282,955 grant from the U.S. Department of Education will support the University of Rochester’s Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, which assists students from disadvantaged backgrounds pursue and attain PhD degrees. The Department of Education’s Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program provides funds to universities throughout the country.

A few thoughts on these:

1. Of course by free they mean “zero-cost” to the recipient.

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
– Frédéric Bastiat

2. >> “So far, parents like the idea of all students getting free lunch at school.”
This should not be surprising, that when people are given things of value at no cost to them, they are happy.

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
– Frédéric Bastiat

3. >> ““We would also send letters home saying ‘Hey Jerome still owes money [for lunch]’. Now that stigma goes away and no one has to pay.””
So there is a stigma associated with actually paying for one’s own lunch? The world is definitely upside-down. We live in a world of warped incentives.

“The State is the great fiction through which everyone endeavours to live at the expense of everyone else.”
– Frédéric Bastiat

4. Don’t be at all shocked that Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester, is ecstatic about this gift. He has just been told that people will be given $1,282,955 specifically to buy his organization’s products. There is little if any downside from his perspective.

5. So not only are others forced to work and pay for the rearing of others’ children via lunches and breakfasts, it gets worse. Now we are also forced to pay for people to get PhDs.?

6. For families getting free breakfasts and lunches 5x/week, are those meals subtracted from any other SNAP benefits they might otherwise be eligible for? Or are they being given double subsidies for some/many meals?

There seems something wrong with the scenario of someone toiling away for decades in a blue-collar job, while being forced to pay for someone else’s son or daughter to get a PhD.

Let’s separate means from ends. I think everyone would agree that kids eating breakfast and lunch is good, something we would like.

But I’m not comfortable with …

I don’t believe we should judge these programs on their intentions alone. Is it okay to rob or steal as long as the ill-gotten gains are used for something we would in a vacuum agree is good (feeding kids)? That’s not a good litmus test, imho.

In the last couple years we’ve heard a great deal about an alleged serious hunger problem in the U.S. (I’m skeptical) and an obesity problem (my eyes and anecdotal evidence tell me this is real). It’s not clear to me how these two things can be happening at once, at first glance they seem largely mutually-exclusive. Anyway, what are the effects on obesity when we give away/subsidize meals in this fashion, in these volumes?

Out of curiosity let’s take a look at the Google Trends for the phrase “Obesity Epidemic”: There seems to be no traction until late 2007.


I would do the same for the word “hunger” But I think the numbers would be dramatically skewed by the popularity of the Hunger Games books and movie.

Let Bastiat sum it up.

“But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.”
– Frédéric Bastiat

Related links:
Greg Mankiw’s Blog: The Entitlement Society
Is It Theft? by Walter Williams