A new federal report says the government program that funds school lunches for low-income families nationwide misspent about $996 million, or 8 percent of its budget, last fiscal year.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has made several steps in recent years to prevent ineligible families from receiving free and reduced prices in the lunch line, but more can be done, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office report.
Wyoming recently tightened the way it enrolls students for these benefits to increase the system’s accuracy, said Tamra Jackson, nutrition supervisor for the Wyoming Department of Education. The state requested $14 million in federal funds to reimburse free or reduced-price lunches for roughly 34,000 students during the 2012-13 school year.
The WDE investigated 442 applications and found 34 to be in error last year, according to the agency.
The report said the USDA made an estimated $996 million in errors in 2013 while certifying families for the program, which offers free and reduced lunch prices to students whose families live near or below federal poverty levels.
In nearly half the cases inspected in the report, households were not actually eligible for the free or reduced-price meals they were receiving. Families had excluded the income of a parent, lied about their household size and understated their income.
Here is the full GAO report on what they found in their investigation.