Fraudulent School Lunch Program Applications
By Phil Gregory, WBGO News
Trenton. July 17, 2013
An investigation of 15 school districts has uncovered widespread fraud in New Jersey’s school lunch program.
State Comptroller Matt Boxer says investigators found that 83 public employees including school board members and teachers underreported their incomes on applications so their children could qualify for free or low-cost school lunches.
“What we found are people who work for the government lying to the government about how much the government is paying them, all to benefit from a program that is designed to help those in need.”
The employees and 26 of their family members have been referred to the Division of Criminal Justice for prosecution.
Boxer says federal guidelines allow reviews of only three percent of applications closest to income eligibility limits.
“Basically what that means at the end of the day is as long as you lie big enough about your income to avoid being real close to the income limit your application will go right through and you’ll be enrolled in the program without anyone ever checking to see if you’re telling the truth about the income numbers.”
Boxer is urging the feds to allow more aggressive auditing,
He also recommends the state reconsider whether to use school lunch enrollment data to calculate the amount of aid given to school districts.
“Given all the problems that we and others have found in the lunch program we are risking school aid being administered based on the amount of fraud rather than the amount of need.”