Trump administration preparing to take school lunches away from a half-million children

A proposed overhaul of the food stamp program from the Trump administration would also wind up taking school lunches away from 500,000 schoolchildren across the country, but the Department of Agriculture conveniently left that detail out of their proposal, according to House Democrats.

NBC News reports:

The Department of Agriculture wants to crack down on eligibility for food stamps, estimating that 3.1 million Americans would lose benefits under the proposed rule that the agency unveiled on Tuesday.

The proposal, however, did not include the USDA’s own estimate that more than 500,000 children would lose automatic eligibility for free school meals under the proposed change, according to Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor.

Currently, children whose families are on food stamps are also automatically enrolled in another federal program that offers free breakfast and lunch meals at their schools. The two programs are linked to reduce paperwork and assure that children are given all of the food benefits they’re qualified for.

The USDA didn’t bother to tell members of Congress about their plan during a phone call with Congressman Scott’s office on Monday:

During the call, the USDA said that 93 percent of the children affected by the change — more than 465,000 total — would qualify for reduced-priced meals, according to Scott’s staff. Under that program, schools can charge up to 30 cents for each breakfast and 40 cents for each lunch.

But families would need to apply individually for assistance, creating paperwork requirements that could lead some qualified children to fall through the cracks, and some families still may not be able to afford the meals, even at a significantly reduced cost, anti-poverty advocates say. Some children may continue to receive free school meals through other programs.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue defended the rule change, asserting that it will assure federal funds only go to those who are entitled to them:

“Too often, states have misused this flexibility without restraint. That is why we are changing the rules, preventing abuse of a critical safety net system, so those who need food assistance the most are the only ones who receive it.”

But anti-poverty advocates say that school lunches are critical to many children who would otherwise go hungry. Lisa Davis, senior vice president of the No Kid Hungry campaign at Share Our Strength, noted:

“Food is the easiest thing to cut out of a household budget. The parents start missing meals to avoid that impact on the kids. And the older kids — the ones in middle school and high school — they often will skip meals to make sure there’s food for the little ones.”

Taking food out of the mouths of hungry children. Clearly, there is no level of cruelty this White House won’t stoop to reach.

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