Tamarine Cornelius
Wisconsin Budget

Attack on Summer Meals for Kids?

Last summer Wisconsin served 2.8 million free and reduced price meals. Proposed bill would slash program.

By , Wisconsin Budget Project - Jun 3rd, 2016 10:32 am
Photo courtesy of MPS.

Photo courtesy of MPS.

Summer is almost here, and children will be out of school – but many of them will still have access to free or reduced-price meals through a program that helps students get their nutritional needs met during the summer months.

Students participating in summer school, summer camps, sports or pre-college programs run by colleges or universities, and certain other summer activities can get free or reduced-price school meals thanks to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program. During summer 2015, Wisconsin children were served 2.8 million free or reduced-price meals at 872 different locations.

Free and reduced-price school meals are an important way to help make sure that all students have the nourishment they need in order to succeed, regardless of family income. It’s difficult for students to reach their full potential if they have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. Making sure that students get the meals they need during the summer helps facilitate summer learning and also helps make sure that students come back in the fall ready to study.

In Wisconsin, just under half of K-12 students have family incomes that make them eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. A family of four with an income of less than $45,000 would be eligible to receive subsidized meals. Free or low-cost school meal costs keep food expenses down for families with low incomes, and help them make ends meet.

Despite the importance of free and reduced-price school lunches to students, some lawmakers in Congress are seeking to restrict the ability of high-poverty schools to provide free meals for all students. A recent blog post by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains:

“A bill from Rep. Todd Rokita, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, would substantially scale back an option that lets high-poverty schools offer meals at no charge to all students without processing applications or tracking eligibility in the lunch line…. Known as community eligibility, the option has been extremely popular with educators, parents, and children.  More than 18,000 schools serving more than 8.5 million students adopted it this year. More than 7,000 of those schools might have to reinstate cumbersome paperwork under the Rokita bill, which would severely curtail schools’ eligibility for the option.”

Free and reduced-priced school meals are an important tool to help make sure students are ready to learn, both during the summer and the school year. We should be working to make it easier for students from families with low incomes get the food assistance for which they are eligible, rather than putting up roadblocks in the way of schools and other organizations providing the meals.

3 thoughts on “Wisconsin Budget: Attack on Summer Meals for Kids?”

  1. Jason says:

    So let me understand this. A Republican congressman is asking for parents of school children who can afford to pay for lunch actually pay for this service. This reminds me of Mr. Murphy’s article last week on the transit system. Shouldn’t people who are 65 and can afford to pay for the bus actually pay for it. I believe the economist Milton Friedman once stated, “there are no free lunches” apparently at MPS there are for many.

  2. Vincent Hanna says:

    It is an outrage that poor kids are getting free meals. That money could be used to cut taxes for the wealthy which would then trickle down meals to the poor kids. Oh wait that doesn’t work.

  3. Jason says:

    Vince, I have no problem with a lot of this advocate journalism on urban Milwaukee but must we cry shame on Republicans for common sense.. There are some middle class families that attend MPS schools, should they pay their fare share for a subsidized federal lunch?

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