He says 1-million school children would be affected.
Washington DC (KM). The US Department of Agriculture’s proposed cuts in the Free School Meals program is generated discussion on Capitol Hill. Representative David Trone (D-Md) and his colleagues on the House Education and Labor Committee held an oversight hearing on the proposals on Wednesday.
If these cuts are implemented, Trone says a number of school kids will go hungry. “We’re going to have a million kids that are going to go hungry,” he says. “It kind of hard to learn, we all know, if you’re hungry.” He also says these cuts could affect 12% of families in Maryland.
In initiating these changes, the USDA hopes to close a loophole which allows people with incomes up to 200% of the poverty level, which is about $50,000 annually for a family of four, to receive food stamps. . It would also prevent households with $2500 in assets or $3500 for a disabled adult from receiving food stamps.
These proposed reductions would also affect children’s access to school meals because kids who live in households that receive food stamps are automatically eligible for free breakfast and lunch at school.
The rationale from the USDA is to prevent people who are not qualified from gaming the system. But Representative Trone says that’s no reason to deny free meals to students who come from families in poverty. “Government has an outlier, one problem, somebody took advantage of the system and then they want to go ahead and change the whole system,” he says. “You have to deal with that outier and that person should not get a free meal. But you don;t take a million people off for this reason.”
During the hearing on Wednesday, Trone says he asked an undersecretary from the Department of Agriculture how many schools would be affected by these changes. “If the numbers change in the community altered-only provision, how many schools are going to drop out. It’s just math. Yet he didn’t know the answer. The answer is 2,000 schools. Yet they haven’t even taken a look at it,” says Trone.
The US Department of Agriculture has agreed to reopen the public comment period for 14 days to allow citizens can weigh in on the program.
By Kevin McManus