Feds wants better record keeping in Phila school lunch program

    Some local leaders say poor Philadelphia children could go hungry if the U.S. Department of Agriculture has its way.

    Some local leaders say poor Philadelphia children could go hungry if the U.S. Department of Agriculture has its way.

    The USDA wants the School District of Philadelphia to end its Universal Feeding Program, which gives more than 120,000 students free breakfast, lunch or both. The District would return to a paper application-based system after a pilot program that’s lasted nearly 20 years.

    Many Philadelphia students in schools with a large population of poor students can get free meals without their parents having to fill out an application.

    The new restrictions would require Philadelphia families to submit paperwork for students to get free or reduced price meals.

    Jonathan Stein is General Counsel at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, which created the Universal Feeding program in 1990. He says the paper applications could present obstacles that hurt needy kids.

    Stein: The application doesn’t get returned home by the kid – the 4 year old or the 10 year old – back to the mother, it’s lost at home, the mother doesn’t have a high literacy or education level, she doesn’t fill it out. Or she fills it out, gives it to the kid who doesn’t give it to the teacher.

    The USDA says it will work to ease the transition to the application-based system.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.