House Democrats are calling out Republicans for sneaking provisions into the Child Nutrition and Education Act, which passed through committee in late May, that would adjust the requirement for free breakfast and lunch eligibility in public school districts
Today, school districts qualify for free breakfast or lunch if at least 40 percent of students are either homeless, in foster care, or belong to families receiving other benefits; under the Child Nutrition and Education Act, that percentage requirement would jump to 60 percent, effectively shutting out a whopping 20 percent of students who were previously eligible.
The bill also stipulates that sodium levels in school food would not be reduced without additional evidence supporting the change; it would increase the states’ prerogatives to make their own determinations about which children would be eligible for the meal-based aid; and it would roll out a three-state block grant pilot program for child nutrition assistance programs, which many Democrats believe would be used to cap — and in effect, limit — funds provided to states.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stood with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, driving force behind the opposition to the bill, to ramp up pressure ahead of the late-summer recess. DeLauro exposed the unfair bill and slammed the dangerous, cost-cutting tactics by Republicans as an extension of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s so-called anti-poverty plan unveiled earlier this week.
“Paul Ryan’s sham poverty plan task force says that it is focused on eradicating poverty, but it’s cuts like this that demonstrate where they’re coming from,” DeLauro said during a press conference on Thursday. “His plan will drive more and more Americans into poverty and make more and more Americans hungry.”
DeLauro highlighted the correlation between proper nutrition and academic performance, stressing that both food availability and nutrition would be compromised under the bill. DeLauro is reportedly continuing talks with leaders in Washington in an effort to convince Congress not to allow this bill to get to the floor for a vote.
The bill’s stringent requirements for aid further echo Ryan’s controversial poverty initiatives, which include extra barriers and qualification requirements for welfare recipients and those who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamp benefits. Ryan argues that the effort to combat poverty should be focused on allocating funds towards areas where there is the highest likelihood to see results. And although he has made comments pointing toward the failures of the war on poverty, programs such as SNAP — which he reportedly wants to cut — have proven to be effective.
This all comes despite a recent, apparently-not-so-genuine admission from Ryan that his approach to poverty was “wrong” in the past, because he referred to those on government assistance as “takers.”
“But as I spent more time listening, and really learning the root causes of poverty,” he said. “I realized I was wrong.”
Photo: Flickr/ U.S. Department of Agriculture
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