All poor children are not equal

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.


  1. says

    GOP attitudes to the poor are reminiscent of North Korean food distribution programs. If you’re not among the connected or favoured, you starve.

  2. Pen says

    The twist comes in the wake of a popularized conservative meme about the moral hazards of free lunches for school kids.

    Which is an astonishing meme because kids always get free lunches. Total ignorance of what puts meals on the table is surely greater in solvent homes than in poor ones.

  3. dannorth says

    A slightly more charitable explanation would be that urban areas are more democrat leaning while rural areas more republican and so the republican favor their own. Both views are not mutually exclusive and both are cases of “I got mine go fuck yourself”

  4. Matt G says

    dannorth@5- We’d have to find out if the rural areas in question contain different proportions of blacks and whites. Do Republicans think they benefit politically from helping rural blacks, who I doubt are going to be swayed to vote Republican under any circumstances? Do Republicans have the power to steer more aid to rural whites than to rural blacks? And hey, isn’t this just encouraging Romney’s 47% of Americans (the “takers”) who mooch off the rest of us?

  5. smrnda says

    The only thing I could say is that poor, depopulated rural areas might not even have decent grocery stores, and might have a greater shortage of resources owing to lower population density and the fact that, as far as I can tell, people with educations and incomes don’t want to live near poor, rural communities.

    At the same time, given that “urban” is almost always taken to mean “not white” in political-speak, this is a clearly racist move, contrasting the virtuous rural poor (who, in addition to being white, might be into good hobbies like shooting guns) as opposed to the ‘urban poor.’

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