Critics Say School Lunch Bill Could Damage Food Stamp Program

The New York Times: "In her campaign to reduce childhood obesity and improve school nutrition, Michelle Obama has become entangled in a fight with White House allies, including liberal Democrats and advocates for the poor." The bill, which the House is expected to consider in the next few days, "would come up with some of the money by cutting future food stamp benefits. When the Senate passed the bill in early August, Mrs. Obama said she was thrilled. But anti-hunger groups were not. ... More than 100 House Democrats, including leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, have signed a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposing the use of food stamp money to pay for the expansion of child nutrition programs."

One provision of the school lunch bill "would require schools to serve more fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Also, for the first time in over three decades, it would increase federal reimbursement for school lunches beyond inflation — to allow for the cost of higher-quality meals. It would also allow more than 100,000 children on Medicaid to qualify for free school meals, without filing applications" (Pear, 9/23). 

NPR: "Current child nutrition programs expire next Thursday.  ... U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the Senate bill goes in the right direction, and has both Democratic and Republican support. ... The Senate-passed bill would provide $4.5 billion over 10 years to expand access to free school lunches and after-school meals for low-income children. ... As far as paying for the changes with food stamp cuts, Vilsack notes that the cuts would affect benefit increases that were approved as part of last year's stimulus bill and aren't supposed to kick in until 2013" (Fessler, 9/24).

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