From The New York Times: “500,000 Children Could Lose Free School Meals Under Trump Administration Proposal.”

The recent rule change proposed by the Department of Agriculture is intended to tighten access to food stamps. What this proposed rule change will actually do is have a direct impact on 500,000 children’s access to free meals at school.

Households that receive benefits or services from another federal welfare program are automatically eligible for food stamps in 39 states. Children in those households are then automatically eligible for free meals at school. To remove meals from a child’s life seems inherently cruel and unfair — and to remove them from a child whose family is already in the low income bracket could almost be seen as a punishment for being poor.

One of the reasons given for the rule change is to ensure the resources go to children in need — if a family of four is living on $25,750, or a percentage multiplication of that figure, the whole family is in need not just the child. The summer vacation is a challenge to families with children … if those families are in the low-income bracket the challenge is magnified. Food Pantries like The Community Kitchen’s pantry program see an uptick in registrations during the school summer vacation, as do their weekday evening meal programs, with parents trying to fill the gap left by the free or reduced meals their children can access during term time. The USDA Summer Feeding Program fills a need but is better suited to camps than to families coping with work hours and child-care needs.

It should be noted what the federal poverty guidelines are for families — for a family of two the income guidelines are $16,910 and for a family of four the guideline is $25,750. If you calculate 150 percent of $25,750 it works out to less than $750 per week for four people — to cover the mortgage or rent, fuel costs, food, clothing, any health costs, running a car and child care.

SNAP (food stamp) benefits have one of the lowest fraud rates of all federal assistance programs and this is surely a petty excuse for saving money when tax relief has and is being given to corporations and millionaires. Instead of punishing the children in low-income families, can we not work together to help move the family out of poverty?

Respectfully submitted,

PHOEBE BRAY

Executive Director

The Community Kitchen

37 Mechanic St.

Keene