Over and over again, the Trump administration has shown an exquisite lack of either compassion or competence, and their unintended cuts to the free and reduced lunch program are yet another example. On July 22, the Trump administration reported that they were making sweeping cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps or SNAP.
It wasn’t until a week later that the House Committee on Education pointed out what the administration failed to mention: thanks to this change, half a million school children could lose access to lunch at school through the Free and Reduced Price lunch program, which SNAP provides eligibility for.
This begs the question: did this administration know that half a million children would lose access and fail to mention it, or are they so incompetent that they somehow managed to miss a part of their change affecting half a million people?
Either way, denying half a million kids free school meals without an explanation is hard to justify. According to the American Psychological Association, children who go hungry at school have significantly lower test scores and attendance rates, as well as significantly higher rates of mental and physical illness.
For kids with families unable to pay, however, the impacts can go far beyond hunger. When I was going to Carnation Elementary school, students with lunch debt were served cold cheese and bread sandwiches instead of an actual meal, and their hand was stamped with a bright pink reminder of their poverty. I remember those students hiding their hands or their lunches, afraid of being picked on for being unable to pay.
Unfortunately, this kind of treatment is rampant around the country, with one instance going so far as to have one Pennsylvania school district to send letters to families with outstanding school lunch debt threatening to place their children in foster care if they didn’t pay. For large school districts, outstanding lunch debt amounts can approach one million dollars.
This unjustified change will only make these problems worse. Unfortunately, the comment period for the change closed last week, bringing it one step closer to taking effect. Regardless of your feelings on the SNAP cuts overall, it should be clear to everyone that allowing it to go through with no explanation, evaluation or justification for its consequences is unacceptable.
These changes should be scrapped, and the administration can come back when they’re willing to tell the truth about the ripple effects of their decisions or when they’re willing to think through them in the first place. The current state of affairs is either evil or just plain stupid.