On Thursday, Agent Orange’s (‘President’ Trump) cabinet member, Betsy DeVos, made a joke about removing or severely hampering the Free and Reduced Lunch program that provides meals to nearly 20 million students in the whole of the U.S. Now, someone out there is going to comment on how it was just a joke, but there is evidence (congress tried to pass a bill that made the eligibility requirements needed to offer free and reduced lunch much harder to reach last year, which would’ve prevented thousands of schools from offering free lunch to thousands of students) that this is an actual issue.
Now, why is this a problem?
Firstly, studies have shown that student performance is increased with having breakfast (which the ability of poor and low-income students to get would also be greatly reduced by the passing of a bill that limits the free and reduced lunch programs). Students are better test takers, and score much better than students who don’t eat breakfast. Students have improved attendance, behavior and general academic performance (not just standardized tests, which is entirely another bag of worms) than those that don’t eat breakfast. Students who participate in the free breakfast programs also demonstrate reduced rates of depression, hyperactivity, and anxiety. The list of benefits associated with free breakfast continues for about 3 more pages, and we can assume that if students didn’t receive lunch, that there would be benefits for those that did receive lunch during the day as opposed to those that didn’t.
Second of all, if the planned cuts to SNAP benefits in the 2017 budget are approved (which aren’t even needed, as the number of people on SNAP benefits has been reducing steadily since the housing market crash (according to the same source) millions of families will lose access to a program they depend upon to feed themselves or their children. If both of these programs are cut as has been proposed in the past, this means that students who simply cannot afford school lunch and can’t feed themselves at home will starve.
Are we really going to let our children’s starve? If these cuts go through, some poor families may have to result to sending there children to work as soon as they are legally allowed (and sometimes before, if they are truly desperate.) This could cause these students to drop out of school or, to lose the opportunity to attend college–in an effort to escape the situation they had the unfortunate luck to be born into–meaning that they’ll grow into adults also impoverished unless they get incredibly lucky, which leads to more impoverished people and potentially more impoverished kids. Also, the performance of the kids who can afford lunch, but not lunch and breakfast, will go down, because the increased performance provided by the free lunch and breakfast will be lost, causing average school performance to drop and (potentially) average literacy rates to drop. And finally, in the worst of circumstances, it could lead to some children who are supported by a single parent in a low-income job to starve. And that child’s parent to starve, since they are trying to feed both of them while also affording everyday expenses, which could lead to the children developing poor hygiene, and, if the parent decides to feed them and there child more instead of paying rent, could lead to homelessness. Which could cause homelessness rates to rise, instead of falling, like they have been in recent years (for most states anyway).
Do we actually want poverty rates to increase and the number of hungry or poorly fed children in America to rise? I hope not, because if these cuts go through, it means that more and more kids will have to grow up like I did. And growing up like I did was not fun.