Representative Bobby Scott said the Department of Agriculture has hidden data that shows its recent proposed changes to the food stamp program may mean that half a million low-income students would lose free meals.
The Democratic representative, who serves as the chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, wrote in a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue that the Trump administration’s formal proposal which revises who qualifies for the program makes no mention of the effect the changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would have on school meal eligibility.
Scott said in the letter that “the proposed rule will impact not only SNAP eligibility, but will also affect children’s eligibility for school meal programs.” He stresses that the program “allows schools to provide free meals to” low-income students.
His committee, the chairman added, found out about the impact on school lunches in a phone briefing with USDA staff, requesting that the Agriculture Department’s proposal to include the estimate and restart the 60-day comment period be revised, CNN reports. The staff said that 93 percent of the affected students would qualify for reduced-priced meals, meaning that the schools can charge up to 30 cents for each breakfast and 40 cents for each lunch.
Scott pointed out that the USDA’s proposed rules must by law include “relevant scientific and technical findings,” stressing that the impact on school meals is a significant “technical finding that must be made public.”
The rule, proposed by the Trump administration on Tuesday, could strip around 3.1 million people of their food stamp benefits. Under the current law, children whose families receive food stamps automatically become part of a program that provides them free breakfast and lunch at school.
However, NBC News writes, because the two programs are linked, they could now likewise lose their free meals at school.
A spokesperson for the USDA refused to comment on the rule’s effect, saying the department “cannot provide additional information during the public comment period.”