A whopping 109 public employees and their family members lied about their incomes to qualify for the federal school lunch program—including teachers, school employees, and board members at 15 of New Jersey’s largest school districts.

During the 2011-12 school year alone, New Jersey school districts received nearly $218 million in federal and state funding for the National School Lunch program. As the Asbury Park Press reported:

The findings from an investigation led by State Comptroller Matthew Boxer are prompting calls for criminal prosecution. …’It’s absurd and obscene,’ Gov. Chris Christie said about the investigation’s findings. …

‘The investigation was focused on public employees because we were concerned about the ability of public employees to use their knowledge of the specific workings of the program and how it’s structured to obtain benefits for which they do not qualify,’ Boxer said. …

‘What we found were people who worked for the government lying to the government about how much the government is paying them, all to benefit from a program designed to help those in need,’ Boxer said.

When asked why she lied about her income on her lunch application, one New Jersey school board member and substitute teacher told investigators, ’It is none of their damn business’ how much money she made.”

Those guilty of fraud should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. They should also pay back—with interest—every penny they stole from hard-working taxpayers who thought they were helping feed low-income children.

Yet another reason why addressing needs such as poverty and hunger are better handled by committed individuals at the community level who directly invest their time and resources, rather than leaving it to some government bureaucracy to fix.