The war on the poor goes on apace in the US but it seems like not all poor are equal and recent action in Congress reveals a difference. For many poor children, the free meals that schools provide are their main source of food. This is one reason why school closings due to bad weather are harder on poor families than richer ones. But when schools close for the summer, these children face an extended period without those meals. In order to alleviate the problem, Congress has in the past allocated funds to provide some free meals during the summer as well.
But this year Republicans inserted language into the legislation that changed things.
And in a surprising twist, the bill language specifies that only rural areas are to benefit in the future from funding requested by the administration this year to continue a modest summer demonstration program to help children from low-income households — both urban and rural — during those months when school meals are not available.
Since 2010, the program has operated from an initial appropriation of $85 million, and the goal has been to test alternative approaches to distribute aid when schools are not in session. The White House asked for an additional $30 million to continue the effort, but the House bill provides $27 million for what’s described as an entirely new pilot program focused on rural areas only.
Democrats were surprised to see urban children were excluded. And the GOP had some trouble explaining the history itself. But a spokeswoman confirmed that the intent of the bill is a pilot project in “rural areas” only.
In the US where discussions of race are always touchy, the use of euphemisms have become commonplace and when referring to children or adolescents, describing them as ‘urban’ means ‘black’. So basically this move is meant to provide summer meals to just white children.
And it is not as if the existing programs were that generous.
The proposed bill also comes as a shock to anti-hunger advocates, who say the existing programs for both rural and urban kids are insufficient.
“Kids are already under-served by the summer school program,” said Crystal FitzSimons, director of school programs at the nonprofit Food Research and Action Center. “Rural communities really do struggle with the summer lunch program. But there are not enough food programs for low-income children in rural and urban areas, which is a huge problem. We need to invest more in these programs for kids.”
The twist comes in the wake of a popularized conservative meme about the moral hazards of free lunches for school kids.
Ah, yes, the perils of ‘moral hazard’ which only seem to apply to poor black people.