All Committee Democrats to Secretary Perdue: Proposed Rule Strips Free School Meals from More Than 500,000 Low-Income Children

WASHINGTON – All 28 Education and Labor Committee Democrats submitted a comment letter to the Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue expressing strong opposition to the Trump administration’s proposed changes to eligibility standards for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). According the administration’s own analysis, its proposed changes to SNAP eligibility would eliminate access to free school meals for more than 500,000 low-income children, but that analysis was not made available to the public during the public comment period.

The letter criticizes both the substance of the rule as well as the Agricultural Department’s decision to withhold its analysis of the effects of the proposal on eligibility for free school meals. 

“When the rule was published in the Federal Register, the Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) did not include discussion of the rule’s impact on free school meal eligibility,” the Committee Democrats wrote. “According to your staff’s analysis, [it] would result in more than 500,000 children losing their automatic eligibility for free school meals.”

Children whose families participate in SNAP can receive free school meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP). Because more than 40 states use expanded categorical eligibility, a less restrictive income and asset test on families that are eligible for SNAP, more children are eligible to receive free meals. The proposed rule would restrict states’ ability to use this, resulting in children losing free meals.

The effect on school meal eligibility represents a societal cost that the Department must consider in its review, so that stakeholders have the opportunity to comment on all aspects of the rule’s impact,” the Committee Democrats wrote.

The letter also raised concerns about the rule’s potential domino effect on the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which allows schools to make free meals available to all students if at least 40 percent of their students are certified for free meals. By cutting eligibility for school meals, the rule could drop some schools just below the 40 percent threshold. According to federal data, nearly one in seven children are living in a food insecure household. 

Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) previously sent a letter to Secretary Perdue on July 29th raising concerns about concealing crucial data. The Chairman has yet to receive a substantive response.

The full text of the letter to Secretary Perdue here.


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