The Trump administration’s new proposed SNAP eligibility rules would cut 3.1 million Americans from the food assistance program. If that weren’t enough cruelty for one policy proposal, it seems that plan would also cut 500,000 children from automatic enrollment in the free school lunch program.
Last week, the Department of Agriculture pitched new SNAP eligibility rules that would stop states from allocating food assistance to residents with higher income but burdensome childcare or housing costs. That rule would hurt families already struggling with food security, and according to NBC News, it would go a step further, though the USDA conveniently left that step out of its formal proposal (emphasis mine):
The proposal, however, did not include the USDA’s own estimate that more than 500,000 children would lose automatic eligibility for free school meals under the proposed change, according to Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor.
Under current law, children whose families receive food stamps are automatically enrolled in a federal program that offers free breakfast and lunch at school. The two benefit programs are linked to reduce paperwork and help ensure that children receive all of the food assistance they qualify for.
The Trump administration claims that the majority of these children would at least be able to obtain reduced-price lunches, but a) reduced-price is not the same as free, and b) their families would have to enroll them in those programs, which takes time and paperwork and requires families to know about the reduced-price lunches in the first place.
Scott is requesting the USDA revise their proposal to reflect the school lunch provision. But even with the revised proposal, there’s a solid chance that a significant chunk of the children kicked out of the free lunch program will subsequently struggle to afford food, exacerbating a school lunch system already rife with lunch debt-shaming in a country in which one in six children go hungry, according to No Kid Hungry. Wonderful.