40% of Eligible Children Not Getting Hot Lunch in School

State Comptroller's report finds law passed in 2005 partially implemented; supervision, hygiene standards lacking.

The hot lunch law, passed in 2005 to ensure a nourishing in-school meal to eligible children, has not been fully implemented, and supervision of nutrition and hygiene standards are lacking, according to a state comptroller's report released on Wednesday.

"It is not certain that all the needy children and those who are eligible for the meals are receiving them," the report states.

According to the report, the 2007-2008 school year saw only about 60 percent, or approximately 200,000 eligible children and teens, receive the lunches as mandated by the law. The law was to have been implemented first in communities and neighborhoods where a long school day was in force. But even in places where the law was introduced, it was only partially applied, and in other cities and towns it went into effect a considerable time after the school year had started.

The main reasons the comptroller's reports cites for the non-application of the law are budgetary limitations, opposition of local authorities to implement it (because they were asked to participate in funding) and opposition from parents asked to pay their share.

The report also found that proper sanitary conditions in the hot-lunch program were not always met, and that the Health Ministry was not participating in oversight of this aspect or of the quality of the food.