Rep. Barbara Lee: Ending poverty starts with school lunches
This month, congressional Republicans will once again try to take food out of the mouths of hungry kids.
All across the country, low-income children rely on their neighborhood schools for healthy and filling meals. In urban, suburban and rural communities, schools are on the front lines ensuring students get enough to eat.
Six years ago, we expanded school meals to millions of low-income children by ending burdensome reporting requirements. Now, this program is at risk from House Republicans who care more about the bottom line than the health of American children.
Under the guise of reauthorizing the child nutrition program, House Republicans are endangering access to free school meals for more than 3.4 million schoolchildren.
As a young, single mother, food stamps were a bridge over troubled water. I don't know what I would have done had my children not had school lunches.
Today, my children and I have to thank my government for that helping hand in our time of need.
In Congress, I've fought to defend and strengthen the programs that helped me and my family. In 2010, I worked with my colleagues to expand school meal programs to reach more students.
Burdensome paperwork was preventing many eligible children from enrolling. To address this, we developed the Community Eligibility Provision, which allowed schools with a low-income student population of 40 percent or more to provide meals at no charge to all students.
Six years later, this program has become a model for expanding healthy meals to millions of students.
Now, House Republicans want to decimate this program by increasing the eligibility threshold from 40 percent to 60 percent.
This makes no sense.
In my East Bay district, 23 schools participate in this community eligibility. Under the House Republicans' proposal, 19 of these schools would lose their eligibility and thousands of East Bay children would go hungry.
Simply put, their proposal would devastate local schools' efforts to feed hungry students.
In my congressional district, 22 percent of children are food insecure, meaning they regularly lack adequate food.
The odds are already stacked against these kids -- why would congressional Republicans want to makes their lives harder?
We know that child hunger hurts children's development, including their physical and mental health, academic achievement, and future economic security.
When children are well-fed they are more focused in school, have better educational attainment and fewer behavioral problems.
The truth is our child nutrition and anti-poverty programs aren't too generous -- if anything, they're too limited.
Sadly, 36 percent of children at risk of going hungry that I represent are ineligible for federal nutrition assistance programs. But rather than address the gaps in our food assistance programs, House Republicans are choosing politics over hungry children.
We know what works to end poverty in America. By addressing hunger and economic instability, we create opportunities for families and children to succeed.
We cannot let the progress we've made be undone. As a member of the powerful federal funding committee, I'm fighting back but we need more help.
If you believe that no child in American should go hungry, reach out to your member of Congress and demand real action, not another plan to take food from the mouths of hungry kids.
Afterward, ask your family and friends to join the fight as well. We need all voices of conscience demanding an end to these GOP practices that risk our kids' futures and health.
Every member of Congress has hungry children in their district -- they should remember those faces before casting their vote on this cold-hearted bill.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee represents the East Bay in Congress. She is a member of the Budget Committee and the education funding subcommittee.
By: Rep. Barbara Lee
Source: East Bay Times
Next Article Previous Article