Republicans Want To 'Reform' A Program That Ensures Poor Kids Get Free Breakfast

by Maria Guido
Image via Shutterstock

More kids are eating free breakfast in school than ever before, and some Republicans can’t stand that idea

A record number of poor children are eating breakfast at school. This is a good thing. I can’t even believe that needs to be said. Any program that gets food into a hungry child’s belly is a good one. But the program the ensures low income kids are getting free breakfast, may be in trouble, thanks to congressional Republicans.

The Washington Post reports “according to the latest School Breakfast Scorecard, an annual report released Tuesday by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), school breakfast participation among low-income kids grew 3.7 percent in the 2015-2016 school year. More than 12 million low-income kids now eat breakfast at school, up almost 50 percent from 10 years ago.”

Up 50 percent from 10 years ago. Fantastic. More low-income kids are being fed. Who could possibly have a problem with that?

If you guessed “republicans” — congratulations. You win a rage stroke.

The Community Eligibility Provision is an Obama-era program that many Republicans don’t love. Under CEP, school districts where 40 percent of the student body qualifies for free meals, may offer those meals free to all students.

Without CEP, families have to apply for free or reduced-priced meals. The school then has to determine eligibility based on family income. The income threshold for a family of four is $44,955 for reduced-price meals and $31,590 for free meals. This process involves a lot of paperwork and manpower — schools have to process applications and collect past due amounts. In addition to that, making the school breakfast program available only to the poorest kids stigmatizes the meal.

What CEP does is just make free breakfast a school-wide norm in districts where almost half the students are low income, so low income students aren’t singled out. It reduces paperwork and funnels more federal money for nutrition to high-poverty schools. But most importantly, it makes sure more kids are eating breakfast. “Studies have shown that students who eat breakfast at school score better on standardized tests and skip school or are tardy less often,” reports The Washington Post.

Republicans have a problem with CEP, because they say it hands out free food to kids whose families could afford to pay full price. They want to increase the threshold to 60% to determine a school or district’s eligibility. One Republican described the program as “welfare for kids who come from the middle class.” Really? Is this where we’re concerned with cutting costs? In the school cafeteria?

Let’s just think about that income threshold for a moment. So, if you make $35k a year for a family of four, you don’t meet the requirement. If you make $40k for a family of four, you don’t meet it. Where is this “middle class welfare” allegation coming from? The threshold is ridiculously low. A family of four isn’t considered “middle class” (according to Pew) until it makes 67-200% of the state’s median income.

So many of us are struggling, and kids are paying the price. The working poor is a real concept in this country. And utilizing any help at all is so stigmatized, people are simply not getting the help they need. If there is a community where nearly half of the students are coming from poverty, that community should be offered free breakfast for their children at school. Who in their right mind would have a problem with that or think that is an adequate area for budget cuts?

Greedy monsters, that’s who.

We have millionaires not paying taxes, corporate giants getting huge breaks, and struggling families being stigmatized for taking advantage of a free healthy breakfast for their children. Something isn’t right here.

The same people who will defend a billionaire for not paying taxes as “smart,” want to pinch pennies in communities where a large percentage are struggling to feed their kids. This is vile. The program has increased the rate of low-income kids who get breakfast at school by 50 percent. That’s called a success. Congressional Republicans actually want reform here? But a border wall that will cost taxpayers $22 billion is okay? Is this reality?

We need to stop allowing politicians to reach into the pockets of the most needy to line the pockets of the most greedy.