131. No Such Thing as Free Lunch

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Ever since Mary moved to the United States one year ago, she often heard the phrase "no such thing as free lunch". While she understood this to mean that you can't get something for nothing, she heard other mothers at her child's school talking about the free lunch program.

"How much does it cost to enroll?" Mary asked the secretary at her child's school. The secretary smiled and told Mary that it didn't cost anything except a little bit of time. In order to find out if Mary's child was qualified to get free lunch at school, she had to fill out a form. The form was available in many languages besides English. It asked Mary basic questions like where she lived, how many children she had, and what her annual income was.

Filling out the form was easy, and Mary didn't have to include proof of her income. She was worried though if the information on the form would be shared with other agencies. The secretary told her that the information was not shared. If Mary made below a certain amount annually, her child could get free lunch not just during the school year, but also even during the summer, when there was no school.

Mary knew this would help her family. While Mary did work, she only worked part-time. Giving her child money for lunch every day did add up and impact the family budget.

After filling out and submitting the form back to the school secretary, Mary had to wait a month or two before finding out if she was qualified. A few weeks after she submitted the form, a letter arrived in the mail. The letter informed her that her child was qualified. The letter also told her that her child could also get free breakfast in school.

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