You may have read in recent days about a Trump administration proposal to tighten the eligibility rules for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.
But what you may not have realized is that this proposed change could also result in an estimated 500,000 children losing their federal free school meal benefits. That’s because the Trump administration seems to have been intent on burying this critical information, which appears nowhere in the proposed rule or in an accompanying “fact sheet” about the rule change’s expected impact.
By way of background, 39 states (along with the District of Columbia, Guam and the Virgin Islands) currently allow families eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to automatically enroll in SNAP. But under the Trump administration’s proposal, this so-called “categorical eligibility” would be eliminated, meaning that such families would have to independently qualify for and enroll in SNAP.
But right now, children who live in SNAP households automatically qualify for free school meals, and SNAP participation is similarly used to determine which schools and districts are eligible to take advantage of the Community Eligibility Provision, which allows them to serve free meals to all students, without qualifying paperwork. As a result, the proposed TANF change is expected to drop an estimated 500,000 children from automatically receiving free school meals.
As U.S. News & World Report reports, Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, has since sent a letter demanding that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue repost his agency’s proposed rule with accurate information on how many children will lose their free meal benefits—and that the 60-day comment period begin anew to allow the public to respond.
But Scott’s pending request doesn’t mean you can’t comment now to register your protest, and the Food Research & Action Center has made it very easy to do so with this online form. If you care about hungry kids having automatic access to nutritious daily meals and/or if you abhor lunch-shaming, please let the USDA know how you feel.
Thanks, everyone—and I’ll of course keep you updated on this important story here.
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