This article by Susan Allen originally appeared Nov. 5 in the Brattleboro Reformer.
BRATTLEBORO — State and local officials and child advocates are pushing back against a proposed federal rule change that would reduce the number of families eligible for food stamps, thereby knocking roughly 3,233 low-income Vermont children out of free and reduced-cost school meal programs.
That loss will be felt by individual families across the state struggling to make ends meet and keep food on the table, but the impact could be broader and felt in schools across the state, they said. Federal funding for school meal programs is based on qualified participation rates, so removing even a few children from free meals programs in small schools could put those programs in jeopardy.
“Many Vermont communities are small and rural and experience high rates of poverty and food insecurity,” Vermont Education Commissioner Daniel French wrote in a letter of opposition to the proposed changes. The public comment period on the proposed change ended Nov. 1.
“This proposed rule change will negatively impact too many of our youngest residents, students who not only rely on SNAP for nutrition at home, but who additionally receive Free and Reduced Lunch benefits at school,” French wrote. “Access to these benefits is crucial to their continued growth and success in the classroom and beyond.”
Currently, children whose families qualify for food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or 3SquaresVT in Vermont) are automatically eligible for free breakfasts and lunches at school. Under the proposed change, the number of families eligible for SNAP benefits would be reduced, cutting their children out of the school lunch program, or requiring their families to complete an application process to keep their children enrolled.
Read full article at the Brattleboro Reformer.
(Fair use with written permission from the New England Newspapers Inc.)