MySDMoms and Kaiser Permanente want to help pay for those necessary items to celebrate Spring! We know that every little bit helps and with Spring cleaning comes new necessities. A $250 gift card goes a long way!
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By CANDICE CHOI AP Food & Health Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Nearly a million children could lose their automatic eligibility for free school lunches under a Trump administration proposal that would reduce the number of people who get food stamps.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released an analysis that says as many as 982,000 children could be affected by the change. About half would have to pay a reduced price of 40 cents for school lunch and 30 cents for breakfast. Around 40,000 would need to pay the full price, which varies depending on the district.
The rest — 445,000 — would remain eligible for free meals, but their families would have to apply to qualify.
Children automatically qualify for free lunches if their families receive food stamps, but the Trump administration has proposed tightening eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which was once known as food stamps. The USDA is not proposing changes to the income rules for the program. It says it is addressing a loophole that gives eligibility to people who would not have otherwise qualified.
The agency said the vast majority of affected children would still be eligible for either free or reduced-price meals.
But Lisa Davis of the advocacy group No Kid Hungry said the application to qualify could be a barrier.
“We hear from schools all the time about the challenge they have with getting families to understand the paperwork or to get it back,” Davis said.
The National School Lunch Program serves roughly 30 million students, including about 20 million free meals daily. For those who don’t qualify for free or reduced price meals, the average price of lunch was $2.48 for elementary school students in the 2016-17 school year, according to the School Nutrition Association, which represents cafeteria employees and vendors.
The group says about three-quarters of school districts have students with unpaid meal charges.
The prevalence of school lunch debt shows even small amounts of money can add up over time and become a burden to struggling families, said Giridhar Mallya, senior policy officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Earlier this year, a Rhode Island district at the center of a controversy around “lunch shaming ” — singling out students who owe lunch money — said $12,000 of its $77,000 in unpaid meal charges were owed by children who qualified for free lunches. The district said the charges were incurred before the families’ applications were approved.
In details released late Monday, the USDA said its proposal could cut $90 million a year from the cost of its school lunch and breakfast programs, which last year was more than $18 billion. It noted the actual number of children who could lose automatic access to free lunch could be less, since some schools offer free lunches to all students regardless of their eligibility.
But those schools do so under a program that requires 40% of students to be eligible for free meals, and the rule change could mean some schools no longer meet that threshold, Mallya said.
The USDA released the details of its analysis after it was criticized for failing to report the impact its SNAP rule change could have on children’s access to free school meals. The agency has said the change is intended to make eligibility rules more consistent across the country, since states can grant people eligibility if they were enrolled in other assistance programs.
The USDA said it would reopen the public comment period on the rule for two weeks to allow feedback on the estimated impact to school meals.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
California is now the first state to mandate later start times for public high schools and middle schools.
The newly signed legislation was among several bills that California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed on Sunday.
The new law mandates that California high schools would be restricted from starting the school day before 8:30 a.m. and middle schools would not be able to start class before 8 a.m. beginning with the 2022-23 school year.
While some support the change, it’s teachers and school districts who opposed the law on the basis that local officials should be the ones to decide the best times to start classes across the state.
The bill’s author, state Sen. Anthony Portantino, said Newsom’s signature “put our children’s health and welfare ahead of institutional bureaucracy resistant to change,” and added, “Shifting to a later start time will improve academic performance and save lives because it helps our children be healthier.”
The bill will not affect the optional early classes, which are known as “zero periods,” that are offered by some schools. Some of the state’s rural districts will also not be affected by the change.
By CANDICE CHOI AP Food & Health Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — School lunch menus already have Meatless Mondays and Taco Tuesdays. Now some may get Trade Mitigation Thursdays.
This fall, some U.S. school cafeterias are expecting shipments of free food, one little known consequence of President Donald Trump’s trade disputes. The products are coming from the Department of Agriculture, which is giving away the $1.2 billion in foods it’s buying to help farmers hurt by trade negotiations.
A Maryland district is awaiting a truckload of canned kidney beans — one of several “trade mitigation” items schools were offered.
“We make our own chili soup, so we knew we had a use for that,” said Barbara Harral, a nutrition official for Montgomery County Public Schools.
All told, she said the district is getting $70,000 worth of free products for the fall, including apples and oranges. Harral, who has been with the district for 22 years, doesn’t recall the USDA offering trade mitigation foods before.
The USDA has long purchased and distributed agricultural products to help farmers, who can face swings in supply and demand in any given year. But the agency is buying even more as a result of Trump’s trade fight, which prompted other countries to take retaliatory actions that curb imports of American farm products.
That’s resulting in an unusual bounty for the groups that get government foods, showing one way federal policies influence what people eat.
According to the USDA, most food purchased as part of trade-relief efforts is going to programs that help the needy. The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, for instance, says it’s getting roughly twice as much government food as normal, including rarely donated items like pistachios. Though they may struggle to handle the sudden deluge, food banks say they’re generally happy for the bounty.
The USDA says schools are only getting a tiny slice of trade mitigation foods, accounting for a majority of the $27 million of products ordered for child nutrition programs. But at a national convention for school cafeteria employees this summer, agency officials noted the program is expected to continue with additional items.
Already, schools are entitled to annual allotments of USDA foods based on how many students they serve through the national school lunch program. But cafeteria officials who operate on tight budgets say they have always welcomed the “bonus” foods the agency offered in the past, even if the market forces that make the products available isn’t always clear.
One year, they recall there was bonus almond butter, long before it was popular. Another year, there were frozen catfish pieces.
“At the time, we didn’t have a way to use them,” Harral of Montgomery County said of the catfish.
In the last couple years, the USDA said it hasn’t really offered bonus foods to schools, instead diverting them to programs for the needy. That’s making the trade mitigation items that much more of a treat for school food officials.
“The room lights up when everyone knows we’ve got new items that are coming,” said Scott Clements, director of child nutrition at the Mississippi education department, which ordered two truckloads of trade mitigation pulled pork and four loads of kidney beans.
Still, putting bonus foods to use can be tricky for schools, which plan menus far in advance and have to consider factors like procurement contracts and warehouse capacities. Such limitations are likely why schools didn’t take full advantage of the $100 million in trade mitigation foods they were offered for the fall, according to the USDA.
In Alaska, officials only ordered a half truck of free kidney beans.
“There’s only so many ways you can use them,” said Sue Lampert, a school food official for the state.
It’s been Teacher Appreciation Week at school lately, which brings up the question, “would you be a Room Mom?”
And while we’re at it, Happy Mother’s Day from Amber and Sara!