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18 percent

June 28, 2011

A state audit of the NJ Department of Agriculture’s administration of the National School Lunch Program found that 18 percent of those children approved for the program were ineligible. According to the state auditor, if that error rate held true for the entire population of approved applications, 58,000 students in New Jersey would be getting a free or reduced lunch without meeting federal guidelines.

There is, however, a larger issue. Eligibility for the federal school lunch program is part of the state aid formula, and other funding for schools is based on the number of students eligible for the lunch program. School districts get between $4,700 and $5,700 in other program aid for each eligible student.

The state auditor acknowledged that the state Department of Agriculture met all federal guidelines for administering the application process and found that transactions were recorded properly. However, due to its findings in this independent examination, the auditor recommended that the lunch program not be used to determine other state funding and policy decisions.

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