Just when it looked as if everything in the D.C. area was going down the dumper last week, one more item rose up to tip the scales a bit more out of balance.
The latest problem centers on feeding 1 million or so public school children. The issue came to the fore months ago during a proposed change to the food stamp program that would reduce the number of children eligible for free and reduced price meals.
The issue bubbled back to the surface all by itself after bureaucrats finally determined what the changes to the program meant in terms of feeding hungry children. It simply added another ingredient to the angst soup being served up by Trump and his minions.
This time it hits closer to home in our neighborhoods and schoolyards. The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to close a loophole in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly the food stamp program.
If closed, nearly 1 million children would no longer automatically be eligible for SNAP. Eligibility would be contingent on parents applying to qualify for the program.
It may sound simple enough but adding another layer of bureaucracy to the process does not fully address the problem of hunger.
“We hear from schools all the time about the challenge they have with getting families to understand the paperwork or to get it back,” said Lisa Davis of the advocacy group No Kid Hungry.
The onus under new USDA rules falls squarely on the shoulders of the parents who should not have more added to the rigor of coping with food insecurity on a daily basis.
There is something horribly wrong when the world’s greatest agriculture economy can’t find it within itself to feed those who need it without barriers randomly thrown up along the way.
The National School Lunch Program serves nearly 30 million students, including about 20 million free meals daily. The latter figure is astounding and should tell us we are a long way from solving the problem.
We like to think the U.S. education system is one of the best in the world; and it could be if kids and their parents didn’t have to worry about facing the day with an empty stomach.
The USDA may want the perceived loose ends neatly tied, but school lunch programs are not rife with fraud. Families are not enriching themselves through free meals.
Funding and commodities are provided by the USDA and other organizations to school districts that in turn provide the best they can with dwindling resources. It’s a delicate balance and could crumble at any time.
Students and parents would be best served if decisions were made at the district level and not in offices along the D.C. Beltway. Local boards know what’s best for students. We believe local control without the proposed heavy handed oversight would be the best solution.
Proper nutrition is the most important weapon in a student’s arsenal at school. Let’s make sure they have all the tools to be successful. And if we have to give away a few free lunches along the way – so be it.