On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers announced that they have reached a consensus on a bill to extend the universal school meals program that’s helped keep millions of children fed throughout the pandemic — but the agreement removes the universal aspect of the program.
Senators Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, and John Boozman(R-Arkansas), as well as Representatives Bobby Scott (D.Virginia), and Virginia Foxx. unveiledThe Keep Kids Fed Act which wouldThrough the upcoming school year, extend a supplemented meal waiver program and provide 40c more federal reimbursements school lunches and breakfast.
Lawmakers had to rush to reach an agreement, who wanted toThe program was weakened by the proposal, ostensibly because they were worried about its cost. Although the proposal is made just before the current waiver program expires on June 30, it requires that federal school meals be restricted to families with incomes below a certain threshold.
Scott and Stabenow have acknowledgedThe agreement is less than they originally desired. The lawmakers are still committed to the agreement. advocates for the waiver programThey were proud to be able to reach an agreement on the legislation with Republicans, just nine days before the expiration of the current program.
“While the country is on the road to recovery, many schools are still struggling with supply chain shortages and other increased costs that will make it more difficult to serve meals next year,” Scott said in a statement. “While this bill does not go as far as I would like in supporting our nation’s students, it is a meaningful step in the right direction.”
The Republicans in the group praised the fact the waivers would now be available to fewer children than in the previous two years of the universal program in a press release. “This legislation will uphold our responsibility to taxpayers and abide by the principle that aid should be targeted and temporary while also helping students truly in need,” Foxx said. Boozman also celebrated the fact that the new bill will be “fully paid for.”
While it’s true that the new proposal is cheaper — with a price tag of about $3 billion, while extending the universal program would have cost about $11 billion — commentators have pointed out that conservatives who handwring about the cost of feeding children often have no qualms about supporting the country’s annual injection into the massive Pentagon budget. For example, this year senators have stacked$45 billion plus The record-breaking feat is already underwayBipartisan defense budget proposal brings the total budget to $847 billion next year.
Schools and local groups are also available. sayThey will have to cut funding for their meal programs, which will impact their ability to feed their children. This could have an impact across the country as the U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA) has documented. estimatesCurrently, 90 percent of school nutrition programs receive funds from the universal meal program.
Millions of children may be denied access to meals if income limits are placed on the program. About 30 million childrenThe program currently provides meals to the children, while only 20million children were receiving federal meal assistance before the pandemic. Many of the 10 million children who started receiving free meals when the pandemic began are from families who were above the income threshold for the program but still struggling to put food on the table — a problem that has been exacerbated by high inflation rates in recent months.
Activists progressivesSince long, advocates for universal free meals for all children have been vocal. Without means testing, families won’t be forced to jump through hoops in order to receive the meal benefits, and stigma against kidsThe number of people who receive free meals could be reduced. Meanwhile, doing reimbursements rather than reducing the cost of the meal upfront could negatively impact families who can’t afford the meals to begin with, compounding problems with school lunch debt.