No such thing as a free lunch?

October 3, 2011

Chris Adams


Children of a San Luis Obispo County school district superintendent were signed up for a federal free lunch program, causing some to wonder if school officials increase federal funding by routinely inflating estimates of poverty-level student numbers on program applications.

Chris Adams, superintendent of Coast Unified School District, and his wife make more than $26,000 a month. Nevertheless, Julie Adams filled out an application for their children to receive free lunches even though the program is only open to families showing income of 130 percent or more below the poverty line.

Chris Adams said an explanation “was simple” but he declined to discuss the application, noting his board of trustees has launched an investigation into what he called “a federal crime,” asserting the form “has been stolen from the district.” He said the idea that his school-age children would be receiving free or reduced lunches was “offensive, ridiculous.”

“I would love to give you an explanation but the problem is, there is an investigation going on,” Adams said. “The school board instigated it.”

Nevertheless, County Superintendent of Schools Julian Crocker said he believes a “proxy” search for impoverished students is the reason Adams’ wife would fill out a lunch form.

“It is possible that the Adams’ filling that form out is just within that context,” Crocker said. “That’s probably the reason he would fill that out — as would other parents who clearly don’t qualify for the free and reduced lunches — and those forms would most likely just be put aside (rejected). But the district does receive a certain amount of money because of poverty. I don’t think it is subterfuge.”

Adams scoffed at Crocker’s comments: “Julian doesn’t even have a tenth of the information… so anything he said was just his opinion. The problem is that information is confidential.”

Crocker, too, wondered about the information’s source: “I am concerned about how this information came to you,” he said. “That this information would even get out because it’s supposed to be confidential.”

Adams said that in time the story of his children’s acceptance into the program would be explained.

“What I want is for the investigation to be completed, and once it is completed, you will get your information” Adams said. “But I’m not going to get in the middle of this nonsense. I’m really not losing any sleep over it. I’ll tell you everything there is to tell.

“I have nothing to hide. This is very irritating to me.”

Schools with the required number of children in the free lunch program receive state and federal Title I funds that can mean more than a $100,000 per school, according to the United States Department of Education website. The program provides supplemental funds to school districts with the highest student concentrations of poverty to help them meet school educational goals.

After CalCoastNews acquired a copy of Adam’s federal application, school officials launched a probe to determine how that document was obtained.

Roman Munoz, of the Sacramento law firm of Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann and Girard, was retained to investigate the source of the document’s “leak;” his scope has now been widened by the board to determine if there has been abuse of the free lunch program.

The free-lunch program is administered under Title 1, an element of the No Child Left Behind Act, Crocker said. Qualified families “sometimes do not apply for whatever reason, so the school districts over the years have made a real effort — and not just Coast Unified — to have all families regardless of income fill out that form.”

There is nothing new in this, Crocker asserted.

“My understanding from districts is that it is fairly standard practice to ask all parents to fill out that form, understanding that many parents don’t exactly qualify for free and reduced,” he said. “But over the years, what has happened is, parents who don’t want to be identified for whatever reason, may not want to fill out the forms.

“But what they don’t understand is that the district uses that information for other things, other than free and reduced lunches. So it’s just easier to just ask everyone to fill them out. That way, over the years districts have been able to get that information from parents, and it does present a way for districts to get additional federal money.”

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Does anyone find it interesting that they have hired a law firm and made a big deal about how the Adam family form applying for a free lunch program is confidential. They sure don’t want anyone examining and comparing the qualifying forms to the number of children “they have qualified” as below the poverty level and therefore entitled to a free lunch.

Don’t think this is about free lunch for kids, this is about creating a large enough % of impoverished children in their particular district so as to qualify for exemptions when overall student test scores are graded at the state level . The more children who qualify in a school system as low income the lower the expectation is to achieve the state standards on K-12 achievement test scores. These districts who qualify a higher % of low income students enjoy the privilege of having their test scores scaled. Of course after test scores are scaled in a district that doesn’t honestly meet the standard for scaling , the Superintendent is a hero who does a job beyond average! Then he qualifies for salary increases and is held out as an exemplary administrator. This would apply to the teachers as well if they have above average test scores in thier classes.

Bingo nancy, it’s about garnering credits for poverty stricken kids, whether they really are or not.

Me thinks no one will ever be properly held accountable for this, in fact I smell a raise coming…

Bingo! Mr Adams had his “his board of trustees” approve a 7% raise for him this year!

I don’t care what they call it, but if someone fills out a form to get kids into the school lunch program, and the kids don’t qualify, that is fraud.

I don’t care if every last school district in the nation does it. If the parents are doing it, it is fraud. If the school districts are doing it, it is fraud.

Who signed these forms?

No it would only be fraud if the parents lie on the form. There is no indication that the form, informs the parents of the criteria to qualify. In that case, it would simply require that the parents disclose their household income, expenses, number of dependents etc and the program administration would then make the determination as to whether they qualify. In this case, the Adam’s family didn’t need anyone to make that determination for them. Something stinks.

Cindy, I went to the looked up “federal free lunch program” and went to the federal site:

If you look at the info there, and then scroll down and pull up the English pdf. NO PLACE do they indicate that the district will be filling it out for the parents. In fact, the first page of the form is a letter to the parents (with a place at the top where the schools can put their letterhead). The instructions that follow for different categories of kids ALL require not only the parent’s signature but also the last 4 numbers of their SS#. To apply, you also have to sign forms allowing sharing of information between agencies (with last 4 numbers of SS#).

So, if it really IS filled out by the school districts without the parents ever seeing it, or signing it themselves, then the school district has committed fraud. They have also disclosed the SS#s of all of the parents!

But this whole story doesn’t make sense. Since one of the posters here didn’t get her “denial” for the program (to which she had never applied) until the school year was half over, had her kids been getting free lunches all the time? I doubt it. How about the kids that ended up qualifying? Did they get free lunches?

This is fracked up. I think there is a possibility Mrs. Adams’ consulting firm was hired to fill out all of these forms for the district, which means she had access to the SS#s and parent income and household demographic data. If this is what happened, did the parents sign for a CONSULTING FIRM, not even a government agency, to have access to all of this info?

If I was a parent, I would be demanding answers and I mean right now.

I understand. Initially I thought you were talking about the parents who filled out the form who didn’t qualify but ended up being accepted into the program.

Yes it would seem odd that families who never filled out the form were enrolled in the program. It makes no sense and for the school to claim it had to do with having enrolled them by zip code is obtuse.

I find it outrageous that the Board would be more concerned about who told? I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of this. The Feds are going to have to investigate it. Funny that the School Board hired a top legal firm to investigate! Ha, I don’t think that’s what they hired those attorney’s for.

Well, look how Nixon overreacted to Daniel Ellsberg’s info leak. He authorized burglary and theft, and even murder, if necessary. He shut down newspapers from publishing.

This whole Adams thing has a decidedly Nixonian feng shui to it.

How could this Superintendent and his wife possibly think they were eligible? They are both credentialed professionals in the field of education. She works as an education consultant in Cambria and he MANAGES the free and reduced lunch program.

I thought defrauding the government was also “a federal crime” and should the messenger be punished here? What about whistle-blower protection? I have long felt that the current school board does not listen to the constituents of this community! It will be interesting to see where this one goes and exactly how much it will cost us!

In my child’s district, that application is one small part of a HUGE packet sent home with the children to be filled out: picture forms, emergency cards, residency questionnaires, PTA membership, etc. We are instructed to fill everything out and return the packet for points which the classrooms then use in a contest. The classroom with the most points wins something minor like ice cream.

I’m unclear as to whether The Adams family was accepted into the program or merely applied???

I agree that there is always a huge packet sent home with children to be filled out. However, I always read each form and I certainly wouldn’t fill something out, i.e. free lunch program, just because it was included in the packet. You’re right though, it’s not clear whether they qualified.

Especially since the forms require you putting in the last 4 numbers of your SS#…on each form. And there are a few.

Here’s a link ( to the application on the USDA’s website.

Sorry, this apply was supposed to follow post of 10/3/2011, 1:10 PM, by MarkJames.

SLO County is an affluent area. Why would they use a tactic like that to gain personal information about every family? It’s none of their business unless a family feels a need to apply for a free lunch. I agree that I would never fill that form out. I have heard that people who fill out that form aren’t turned down, my neighbor was surprised and embarrassed when their daughter qualified. They said they looked up the program on line and that they earn three times the income necessary to qualify. They refused to allow her to take the free lunch.

We got a huge packet at the beginning of school year, too. But the application clearly indicated dollar

limit to apply for the free lunch. We did not qualify so we didn’t fill that form/application out.

It’s very strange that this couple would fill out the application; especially making the big bucks that they


I’m grateful to CalCoast News for keeping us citizens informed on what’s happening around us. Then

it’s up to us to try to correct/make things better.

1. IMO, it doesn’t matter whether they were accepted or not. They committed fraud when they signed the application (including the last four #s of their SSN#).

2. I don’t think it matters how many forms were in a packet. Most people pay extra attention to the ones where they have to also provide the last four #s of their SSN#, no?

Maybe he just doesn’t understand who is entitled to the free lunches, after all he is only a district supervisor. Or perhaps he didn’t notice that he never had to give is children lunch money, after all a parent cannot be expected to know what their children do every day.

Just another example of a government employee screwing the people for his own personal benefit. Sadly this seems to be a daily occurrence.

QUOTING ISOSLO: “Maybe he just doesn’t understand who is entitled to the free lunches, after all he is only a district supervisor….”

…AND supervisor of the school lunch program.

I will be on Dave Congalton’s Home Town Radio show at 4:05 p.m. today to discuss this article.

920KVEC, that is

Ask Adams if he knows if the penalty for defrauding the Federal government. involves doing some time? This is unbelievable!

§ 245.12 Fraud penalties.

(a) Whoever embezzles, willfully misapplies, steals, or obtains by fraud any funds, assets, or property provided under this part, whether received directly or indirectly from the Department, shall—

(1) If such funds, assets, or property are of a value of $100 or more, be fined not more than $25,000 or imprisoned not more than five years of both; or

(2) If such funds, assets, or property are of a value of less than $100, be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than one year or both.

(b) Whoever receives, conceals, or retains to his use or gain funds, assets, or property provided under this part, whether received directly or indirectly from the Department, knowing such funds, assets, or property have been embezzled, willfully misapplied, stolen, or obtained by fraud, shall be subject to the same penalties provided in paragraph (a) of this section.

“I would love to give you an explanation but the problem is, there is an investigation going on,”

Superintendent of Schools Julian Crocker said he believes “a “proxy” search for impoverished students is the reason Adams’ wife would fill out a lunch form”

“Adams scoffed at Crocker’s comments: “Julian doesn’t even have a tenth of the information… so anything he said was just his opinion. The problem is that information is confidential.”

“the district does receive a certain amount of money because of poverty. I don’t think it is subterfuge.”

None of this is acceptable. The “Adam’s Family” certainly knew they didn’t qualify. I can understand encouraging parents who may not be aware that they meet the poverty level to apply however there is absolutely no excuse for that form to be filled out by a family earning over $300,000 a year. No excuse what so ever. This looks like attempted fraud to me. It’s clear that an investigation needs to ensue, initiated by the people, for the people and of the people. I suspect this is the tip of the iceberg not only with this school district but with others as well.

Bottom line is that they are cheating the government. They are after more funding than they are entitled to. I find it interesting that they’re investigation was launched to determine who leaked the form rather than why the superintendent was bilking the taxpayers by leading us to believe they have more impoverished children than actually exist (among other things). It seems to me, if they encourage so many parents to fill out the form, then they more than make up for the children who may qualify who didn’t apply and by the way, how do they decide to give free lunch to someone who hasn’t applied or qualified? This is a perfect example of how these well intended programs turn into black holes that our tax $$ disappear into. Adam’s has committed a CRIME and it isn’t a joke, I’m disgusted and think he should be investigated and prosecuted for CHEATING.

BTW, Does his wife also work for the school district. These two are collectively earning 26K a month! It would be interesting to know how much of that is paid out of our school district funds. Somehow, I have a feeling they both work for the “gub”. Anybody know?

Cindy, nice that you have all the answers without having any facts.

Oh you mean I don’t have facts that he is going to explain after they finish figuring out who leaked the information? Did you read this story? Did you read what he said? I heard enough. We need a REAL INVESTIGATION on behalf of the taxpayers, brought on, by the taxpayers.

??? gub that word doesn’t mean what you think it means.


1. gub

someone who does not know what a gub is

“you are such a gub!”

“whats a gub?”


I think she meant ‘gummint, ‘ an old Pogo term that is just as relevant today.

Yeah, like in the urban Dr. Seuss book, “Green Eggs and Guvmint Cheese” book.

OK OK, point taken, move on ;)

I call them the “gubminet” the “gov” the “gub”. So if I’m going to be PC I should call them the gummint? I can assure you, that people know what I’m talking about when I just say “gub”, but if you insist that I must use appropriate slang, I’ll call them the gummint. Many threads aren’t as civil as we are here and it’s only a matter of time anyway!


Just sounds like another one of those ‘I did it because he can.’ No matter what the real reason it looks bad.

Although… I really really would like to hear his explanation…. but it sounds a lot like the local education administrator who had school employees at his home to install various things… because ‘he worked a lot at home.’


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