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Jack Kingston wants 'no such thing as a free lunch' for schoolkids

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Updated: 12/19/2013 6:09 pm
WASHINGTON (AJC.COM) -- Last weekend, U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston told a crowd in Jackson County he would like poor children to pay a nominal fee for school lunches or perform janitorial work in exchange for their meals, according to a video posted by the Huffington Post.

The Savannah Republican who's running for Senate next year had this to say in the 45-second snippet:

"On the Agriculture Committee we have jurisdiction over the school lunch. The school lunch program has a 16 percent error rate. The school lunch program is very expensive. Of course it looks good compared to the school breakfast program that has a 25 percent error rate.

"But one of the things I've talked to the Secretary of Agriculture about: 'Why don't you, you know, have the kids pay a dime, pay a nickel to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch. Or maybe sweep the floor in the cafeteria.'

"And yes, I understand that would be an administrative problem and I understand that it would probably lose you money, but think what we would gian as a society in getting people -- getting the myth out of their head that there is such thing as a free lunch."

Kingston's proposal echoed controversial 2011 remarks from former House Speaker and then-presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, a political mentor of Kingston's, in which Gingrich proposed paying poor students to work as school janitors.
Kingston does not actually serve on the House Agriculture Committee but once led the appropriations subcommittee that oversees agriculture spending, including the school lunch and school breakfast programs.

The error rates he cited are a statistic USDA uses that combines overpayments and underpayments. If you subtract underpayments from overpayments, the government pays about 8 percent more than it should for school lunch ($807 million) and 18 percent too much for breakfast ($544 million). (Data from page 198 of this FY12 report.)

As the 2014 campaigns accelerate, video trackers are getting a workout.

Update 5 p.m.: Kingston spokesman Chris Crawford responded to the video with the following, via email:
"It is sad that trying to have a productive conversation about instilling a strong work ethic in the next generation of Americans so quickly devolves into the usual name calling partisan hysteria.
"Having worked from a young age himself, Congressman Kingston understands the value of hard work and the important role it plays in shaping young people."
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ewells 460 - 12/20/2013 12:52 AM
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As a single mother of two special needs children this is tough to stomach. I understand the moral he intends to teach with this but I'll be damn if either of my children will be working anywhere before they are old enough to hold a job. Maybe they should focus on getting my child support so we could pay for lunch. This is disgusting. Most kids on free or reduced lunch don't even know they're on it to begin with.
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