New Jersey's 26th Legislative District

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Pennacchio: Dems Were Aware of Problems with School Lunch Program; Failed to Approve Republican Oversight Resolution

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Calls for Hearings to Implement Solutions

Senator Joe Pennacchio, a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, sent a letter today to the Chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee calling for an investigation of the Elizabeth School Board school lunch scandal. The program is administered by the State Department of Agriculture. Senator Pennacchio asked the Chairman to call the State Commissioner of Agriculture and the State Auditor, Steven Eells to discuss the administration of the program. The letter and a Budget Resolution are attached:

“Thanks to an expose’ in the Star-Ledger the numerous problems that have been obvious for many years in the National School Lunch Program are now a symbol of waste, fraud and abuse in the public school bureaucracy. The goals of the program are worthwhile and commendable. School children need proper nutrition to perform at their best in a learning environment.

“Unfortunately, some school officials have taken advantage of this valuable program and perverted it to serve their own needs. School officials are either falsely inflating metrics for the school aid formula or enrolling their children in a program that they do not qualify for. In fact, before the budget was adopted I proposed a resolution that would have requiring the Commissioner of Education to conduct an audit of the federal program for free and reduced lunch and incorporate the audit findings into the school funding formula.

“We must find solutions to the obvious problems that exist in this program while ensuring that the focus of the program remains on the school children. Because this program is administered by the State Department of Agriculture I have sent a letter to the Chairman of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee asking that he call the Commissioner of Agriculture and the State Auditor to discuss possible solutions to this scandal in a formal setting in the State House.
August 23, 2011

Honorable Paul Sarlo


Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee

207 Hackensack Street

Second Floor

Wood-Ridge, New Jersey 07075

Dear Chairman Sarlo:

As you are no doubt aware, the potential problems with the National School Lunch Program, which the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee discussed during our budget hearings this spring, have transformed into a full-blown scandal in the Elizabeth School District. The allegations made in the Star-Ledger, if true, warrant further scrutiny by the Committee.

I respectfully ask that you schedule a hearing on this issue as soon as possible. I also ask that you invite the State Commissioner of Agriculture who administers the program and the State Auditor who released an audit of the Department of Agriculture to appear before the Committee.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Joe Pennacchio



Pennacchio, Joseph


Bucco, Anthony R.

Doherty, Michael J.

Oroho, Steven V.

The Commissioner of Education shall undertake an audit of the accuracy of the eligibility of students participating in the free and reduced lunch program and shall incorporate any adjustments in State aid allocation resulting from the audited numbers in State aid payments beginning in February of 2012.

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