One week after he was left off the Democratic debate stage for the first time this primary season, Julián Castro called for broad expansions to federal food programs, including free breakfast and lunch for all public school students, saying the country had a “moral obligation” to make sure children have enough to eat, The New York Times reports.
“The right to eat is a human right,” said Castro, the former federal housing secretary and mayor of San Antonio. “This is an urgent need for too many children. We’ve had a problem in this country with people who are lost in poverty that is stifling.”
The plan comes as most polls show Castro with the support of between 0 and 1 percent of Democratic primary voters, and as his campaign said it needed 7,500 additional donors to hit the donor requirement for the next debate, scheduled for December 19. His campaign says he has no plans to drop out of the race, the Times adds.
Castro’s campaign has focused heavily on policies that would help the poor, and recent campaign stops have included touring a sprawling homeless encampment in Oakland, Calif., and a food pantry in Las Vegas.
“In our politics today, we’ve forgotten to talk about the poor as intently as we’ve fought for the middle class,” Castro said in an interview. “We are focusing on the most vulnerable, the most forgotten, the people who need others fighting for them.”
Other candidates, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker, have proposed providing free meals for all public school children. Sanders sponsored a Senate bill this year that would provide free breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack in public schools. Booker’s plan to combat child poverty calls for expanding federal food programs and providing universal free lunch in public schools, the Times notes.