Thursday, March 21, 2024

House GOP Seeks to Ban Free School Lunches


On Wednesday, the Republican Study Committee, of which some three-quarters of House Republicans are members, released its 2025 budget entitled “Fiscal Sanity to Save America.” Tucked away in the 180-page austerity manifesto is a block of text concerned with a crucial priority for the party: ensuring children aren’t being fed at school.

Eliminating Free School Meals

Eight states offer all students, regardless of household income, free school meals — and more states are trending in that direction. However, while people across the country move to feed school children, congressional Republicans are looking to stop the cause.

The budget, co-signed by more than 170 House Republicans, calls to eliminate the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) from the School Lunch Program. The CEP allows certain schools to provide free school lunches regardless of the individual eligibility of each student. Additionally, the RSC Budget would limit spending in the program to truly needy households.

The CEP allows schools and districts in low-income areas to provide breakfast and lunch to all students, free of charge. The program relieves both schools and families from administrative paperwork, removing the inefficiencies and barriers of means-testing, all on the pathway to feeding more children and lifting all boats.

Expanding Access to School Meals

This year, the Biden administration further expanded the CEP, allowing another estimated 3,000 school districts to serve students breakfast and lunch at no cost. Instead of universality, the RSC suggests sending block grants for child nutrition programs to states, giving them needed flexibility to promote the efficient allocation of funds to those who need it most while avoiding widespread fraud.

Republicans’ Opposition

Republicans have worked for years to undermine school lunch programs, but the staying focus on the goal, even in rhetoric, is notable given the warm reception some states have received in instituting universal school lunch. In Minnesota, for example, 70 percent of Minnesotans were found to have approved of the policy change that took effect last summer. Statewide polling in Pennsylvania last year found 82 percent of people supporting expanding their free school breakfast program to include lunch too.

The Republican Study Committee is the largest ideological caucus in Congress and has served as a principle priority-setter for the party for the past 51 years. The committee’s annual budget offers a window into conservatives’ policy priorities, which include accelerating environmental degradation, opposing gun regulations, and restricting reproductive rights.

Environmental Policies

On environmental issues, the RSC opposes climate change initiatives and supports oil and gas projects on federal lands. The committee also opposes gun regulations and reproductive rights bills while threatening changes to Social Security.

Budget Priorities

Other Republican budget priorities include eliminating funding for Palestinian refugees, prohibiting federal subsidies for high-speed rail, reducing funding for Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and eliminating the National Labor Relations Board. The budget also includes provisions to finish construction of border wall projects proposed by former President Donald Trump.

In conclusion, the Republican Study Committee’s budget reflects a set of conservative policy priorities that oppose universal free school lunches, environmental protections, gun regulations, reproductive rights, and various social safety net programs. The budget serves as a roadmap for Republican lawmakers’ legislative goals and policy positions.

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