Why Are We Spending 84% More To Feed 2% Fewer Students?


The Fargo Forum yesterday described the refusal by Republicans in North Dakota’s state House to replace federal milk funds for a third half-pint of milk a day with a state appropriation as “mean” and “stingy.”

“The callousness is startling, disappointing,” wrote the Forum editorial board with their typically unthinking sort of intemperance. Of course, the Forum doesn’t mention that the kids are already getting a pint of milk a day, or that the feds seem to have moved the funding for a third half-pint of milk a day into a fresh fruit and vegetables program the funding for which has grown from nothing in 2008 to $1.7 million in 2012 (part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s war on fat kids) according to numbers obtained from North Dakota’s Department of Public Instruction (see below).

The feds are spending less on extra milks and more on fruit and vegetables.

I’ve debated this issue on television and radio over the last week, and what astounds me is how many people refuse to listen to any reasonable argument. It’s milk for kids, they argue, as though that were some sort of a trump card to any factual, logical rebuttal. Certainly that seems to be the Forum’s position.

But there’s a larger problem here. Consider, for instance, that the federal government has taken over school nutrition programs. North Dakota’s share of school nutrition is just 3% of all dollars spent per the spreadsheet below provided by DPI. Federal funding for school lunch, breakfast and other nutrition programs was at $23.8 million and has grown by 84% since 2000…


…while school enrollment has actually declined by about 2% (according to numbers from Legislative Council):


The small portion of funding coming from the state increased too, going up 30% since 2000.

While the state engages in a political pie-throwing contest over a half-million dollar appropriation for a third carton of milk a day, nobody is asking why in the world the feds are spending 84% more (and the state is spending 30% more) to feed 2% fewer children.

I know it’s easier to just shout “it’s for the children,” but I like to think our legislators look a little deeper into these issues than that, and there are serious questions to consider. For one, why isn’t the massive increase in per-student funding for nutrition programs adequate? For another, are we really satisfied with the way the federal government is micromanaging what is on the lunch and breakfast trays of students in North Dakota?

We could have these debates, but it seems many would rather throw pies. Including our newspaper editors who, rather than helping inform the debate, are throwing pies of their own.

North Dakota School Nutrition Funding by