Republicans and Democrats in Congress are clashing once again over the right-wing’s incessant obsession with slashing spending wherever they think they can get away with it – and it’s no coincidence that they almost always target those that need help the most, which almost always ends up being impoverished children and their families.
This time, the legislative battle is being waged over the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 as Republicans fight tooth and nail to turn the federal school lunch program into a pilot block grant program, beginning with three states – but as the nutrition association’s public policy and legislation committee chair Doug Davis said, “I’m not buying the argument that three states are better than 50; it’s like saying which of your 10 fingers do you want to cut off.”
Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) tried and failed to turn the school lunch program into a block program for all fifty states, which was resoundingly defeated because Democrats know very well at this point that once you turn funding into a block grant, it is enormously easier to cut away entirely. The proposed block grant program would cut off two important streams of funding from public schools – the 29-cent reimbursement rate for meals that students pay full price for, and the 6 cents schools receive per lunch if they meet First Lady Michelle Obama’s nutritional standards laid down in the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. This alone would cost states $30 million in small states like Georgia or a staggering $78 million a year for California.
On top of that, the bill would also increase the eligible poverty threshold of 40% of a school’s population to 60%, which would cut off the school lunch program entirely for nearly half the schools in the country that rely on the federal lunch money program to feed their kids a healthy meal – a meal that is sometimes the only thing these kids will eat all day. “One in five kids in the U.S. live in a house where food is scarce. Hunger exists in each and every community whether represented by a Democrat or a Republican” raged Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).
It is absolutely disgusting to see House Republicans take aim at a critically important program that helps to alleviate the hunger of children and helps ensure that they will receive the nutrition that they desperately need for their bodies and brains to develop. To add insult to injury, consider that the House of Representatives has already passed legislation ordering one more $384 million Littoral Combat Ship that the Department of Defense doesn’t even want. But House Republicans would rather throw money at their lobbyists and corporate donors for killing machines we don’t even need than shell out a couple million dollars for hungry children. That should tell you all you need to know about the corrupt sellvotes that are strangulating progress in our nation – and what you need to do at the ballot box in November to punish them for it.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.