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Donald Trump and his administration have been demanding that schools reopen in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic as it ravages large swaths of the country — often using the argument that millions of children rely on schools to provide them with the nutrition they otherwise do not get at home.

"Thirty million American students rely on schools for free and reduced meals," Trump said at a July 23 news conference, listing off one of the reasons he wants kids to go back to school even as schools struggle with finding the space and the resources to safely reopen for full-time in-person learning.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also listed nutritional needs as a reason for full school reopening in a document Trump demanded from the government health agency.

"Extended school closures can be harmful to the nutritional health of children," the CDC wrote in a July 23 post titled "The Importance of Reopening America's Schools this Fall. "Schools are essential to meeting the nutritional needs of children with many consuming up to half their daily calories at school."

However, the Trump administration has advocated for cutting food assistance programs in ways that would lead fewer low-income children to get free lunch at school.

For example, in 2019, the Trump administration proposed a rule to try to take away food stamps from millions of Americans. That would have led nearly 1 million kids to lose their free school lunch.

The Trump administration also created a public charge rule that would bar immigrants from living in the United States if the government determined they might be in need of public assistance programs, such as food stamps.

That rule is being challenged in court, but it could prevent immigrants seeking citizenship in the United States from enrolling in the food stamps program, which would mean their children lose access to free lunch at school, NPR reported in February.

Democratic Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI), the vice-chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, called the Trump administration hypocritical for trying to use the need to help feed students as a reason to reopen schools before it's safe.

"Using lunches as a reason to reopen schools while depriving them of the resources needed to combat the virus isn't just hypocritical. It also flies in the face of warnings from public health officials, including the director of the CDC, who have made clear that this pandemic is going to worsen in the fall," Levin said in a statement to the American Independent Foundation.

"Sending kids back to classrooms without providing schools the guidance and help they need to reopen safely won't lead to well-fed students. It will lead to sick children, educators, and parents," Levin added.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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