Eliminating Reduced Price Meal Category

On Saturday, June 25, 2022, the President signed into law: S. 2089, the “Keep Kids Fed Act of 2022,” which extends certain flexibilities for child nutrition programs and provides temporary increases in reimbursement rates for school meals and meals provided at child care centers. Thank you to Senators Debbie Stabenow and John Boozman and Representatives Bobby Scott and Virginia Foxx for their leadership. This important legislation is critical for making sure millions of kids have access to safe, healthy food throughout the summer. Hunger doesn’t take a vacation and summer can be particularly hard on children, even when we are not experiencing the inflation we have today.

While the thanks are well-deserved for this bipartisan bill, it infuriates me to know that even more could have been done and WAS done before Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) refused to vote for the passage of the bill. One person, yes, one person, decides we should not eliminate the reduced price meal category for one year, giving families a desperately needed break, and the bill had to go back to be revised and the elimination of the reduced price meal category was removed from the bill. Absolutely shameful.

Let’s take a look at what it means to qualify for reduced priced meal benefits at school during the 2022-2023 school year. First, for a free meal, a family of four may not exceed $36,075.00 to qualify for a free meal. That is gross pay with no consideration for any expenses, including medical expenses (and don’t even get me started on that!). So, to qualify for reduced priced meal benefits, a family of four must be within the range of $36,075.01-$51,338.00 gross annual take home pay. Do you see the penny here? It is purposeful. If you make one penny more than the limit for free meal benefits, you must go to the reduced price meal category.

These are working poor families, many working multiple jobs and one Senator from Kentucky decides that children should not receive free school meals for one additional year. Completely shameful and particularly cruel. We need to permanently eliminate the reduced priced meal category. With these income levels it is impossible to pay rent, utilities, keep a car running or pay for public transportation and any medical expenses you may have. Why do we have to fight to feed our children and support our American farmers? A question I will never resolve.

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