UPDATE, May 29: A re-vote on the Farm bill is still expected. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise has floated June 22, but it may very well come up earlier. Please contact your House members one more time and ask them to oppose drastic cuts to SNAP that hurt working families and jeopardize free school meals for as many as 265,000 students.
UPDATE: Your advocacy against cuts to the SNAP program worked, and the first vote on the Farm Bill (HR 2) failed to pass on Friday. However, Speaker Ryan has left the door open for the House to vote again on the bill this week. Please contact your House members one more time and ask them to oppose drastic cuts to SNAP that hurt working families and jeopardize free school meals for as many as 265,000 students.
By Amanda Litvinov
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on a Farm Bill that is notable for its callous disregard for children from low-income families that are vulnerable to hunger and food insecurity.
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The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2) makes significant cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation’s largest anti-hunger program. Those unnecessary changes could lead to many families losing benefits that help them purchase nutritious foods, and could cause as many as 265,000 students to lose access to free meals at school. The number could be even higher.
Educators know all too well the damaging effects that hunger has on students’ learning and overall well-being.
Second grade teacher Amanda Price has witnessed the plight of hungry students where she teaches in Little Rock, Ark. “So many students struggle to be successful in classrooms because they can’t process information while they’re so hungry all the time,” Price said.
She lists low achievement and behavior problems as the two biggest side effects. “They go hand-in-hand as the biggest factors of student hunger,” said Price.
Studies have shown that children in food-insecure homes are more likely to have developmental delays in cognitive and mental health, and lower test scores. They also struggle more with social interactions.
After she moved to a school district that offers breakfast in the classroom, Price saw first-hand what a difference school-based meals can make. “I could definitely see the change in the kids, in their behavior, their attitude, their successes and achievements,” Price said.
According to the 2017 Hunger in Our Schools survey conducted by the No Kid Hungry campaign, three out of four educators report that they see students regularly come to school hungry because they don’t get enough to eat at home. Ninety-two percent of teachers said they are concerned about how hunger negatively affects their students’ ability to learn.
That report concludes that school-based meals are the best way to alleviate chronic hunger among school-age children. But the cuts to SNAP currently under consideration would mean children whose families no longer qualify for SNAP lose direct certification for school meals.
That is a shocking reversal of past efforts in Congress to help ensure that children’s nutritional needs are met. Federal law currently requires that all school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program directly certify all students in families that receive SNAP benefits for free school meals.
If the proposed cuts go through, the outcome for some children will be bleak.
Communities of color, which experience food insecurity at higher rates compared to all U.S. households, will be disproportionately harmed by the proposed cuts to SNAP. In 2016, 23 percent of African American households and 19 percent of Latino households experienced food insecurity, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Even as the U.S. economy continues to recover, many Americans still experience food insecurity. SNAP has proven effective in helping vulnerable populations, and 84% of SNAP households include a child, person with a disability, or a senior.
By providing monthly benefits to eligible low-income people to purchase food, SNAP plays a critical role in reducing hunger, malnutrition, and poverty, and improving family security, child and adult health, and employment.