SALT LAKE CITY — Thousands of Utah kids are eating at summer lunch programs around the state but some people think it isn't the school's responsibility to feed them. KSL viewers contacted KSL-TV and were concerned about what they say is a large amount of waste generated by the summer lunch program.
KSL-TV took a second look at whether the program is really a good use of taxpayer money.
More than 62,000 meals were served as part of the summer lunch program in the Weber district. Schools all over Utah offer meals in cafeterias and in parks to help make sure kids get good nutrition, even when school isn't in session.
"The meal that we are required to serve the students compiles five components: dairy, grain, meats, fruits and vegetables," said Charlene King, Child Nutrition coordinator for the Weber School District.
But it's what kids weren't eating and what they were throwing away that caught the attention of parents at some of these programs. It's a rule, no one can take food off the premises. The story also prompted many questions about whose role it is to feed children in the first place.
"When we all know that some kind of third party group, the government over here is going to provide for all the needs that people have, then we don't see a need to go provide those for ourselves," said Derek Monson, director of public policy at the Sutherland Institute.
Viewer feedback echoed that sentiment:
KSL.com commenter Ladybandit wrote, "It's not the government's job or a charities job to raise your kids."
Another commenter agreed.
"Who can make a peanut butter sandwich cheaper, you or the government?" wrote Honest engine.
Coordinators say the reality is the program helps children who may not otherwise eat.
"Think about a child that's gone hungry for a day and think of if maybe that was something that was involved in their family and if they would participate in if something was available to them," King said.
But the programs only require parents to pay for food. Anyone else under the age of 18 can get a free lunch for the taking and critics say that opens the program for abuse.
"It makes complete sense to me that a parent would take advantage of that if everybody is saying its free," Monson said.
King says they want to expand their reach of students.
"I know that there is a lot of parents who still don't know that this program's out there and we're hoping to reach more people as the year's go on," she said.
So while it helps children who rely on school lunch, the food programs make no effort to distinguish who needs it.