The Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District will give away free meals to children and teenagers this summer, regardless of income level or residency, in what appears to be a profit-making scheme promoted by Congress.

The federal government is now $22 trillion in debt, or $185,000 per federal taxpayer. But that has not stopped Congress from forcing taxpayers to feed the children of parents who don’t even need the handout.

Through the Federal Summer Food Service Program starting in June, anyone 18 and under who comes to either Timberline Elementary School or Grapevine Middle School during the hours of breakfast or lunch will receive a complimentary meal. In response to an email from Texas Scorecard, Kristin Snively, executive director of communications for GCISD, claims it will actually be for those under 18 years of age—while their own website says 18 and under—and that the school district will receive $2.14 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for every reimbursable breakfast, and $3.37 for every reimbursable lunch. Snively reported that the average breakfast menu food cost is $0.98, while the average lunch menu food cost is $1.59.

According to a document provided by Snively, GCISD has been participating in the program since June of 2005. Last year, GCISD spent $39,747 and was reimbursed with $60,843 of federal taxpayer money, 65 percent more than what was spent on the program. GCISD is restricted from spending this money on teacher salaries or instruction. Keep in mind, in the past five years the average property tax bill in Tarrant County for homeowners living in GCISD rose 40 percent to roughly $5,000 in 2018.

How could GCISD possibly need any more money from the taxpayers?

Furthermore, you don’t have to be a resident of GCISD to get free food, and according to Snively, the school district is restricted from verifying a financial need exists from the ones participating. In other words, families who can afford to feed their own children don’t have to, under this program. Students of wealthy parents inside and outside of GCISD can eat meals paid for by the taxpayers.

When asked by Texas Scorecard, a GCISD employee stated that this yearly program will be running entirely on the “honor system,” meaning the ages of those who come will not be checked as they enter the building. When asked about age verification, Snively wrote:

“Any student that looks over 18, the cashier will ask how old they are and if they are over 18, they will be charged the adult meal price of $3.45.”

Ostensibly, this program is to help address hunger, but there are nonprofits in the area to address this issue. For example, the Taste Project in Fort Worth, which is open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Sunday, serves high-quality meals to locals who pay only what they can afford. No one is turned away from this service, regardless of zip code and income level, and those who voluntarily contribute do so with the understanding of how the project operates. The program is privately funded from donations and by those who eat and pay more than they typically would for that kind of meal.

The fact that the district is making a profit margin running the program suggests there is a motivation to provide free meals as a means of generating revenue, not necessarily just to feed needy children. In any case, why should taxpayers be forced to buy meals for families who can easily afford to feed themselves? And why is a school district offering meals to children who are not students?

The next board of trustees meeting will be on May 20 at 7 p.m., located at 3051 Ira E. Woods Ave., Grapevine, Texas.

Information in this article has been updated since publication. 

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.