President Donald Trump released his 2018 budget proposal, “America First,” on March 16. The budget proposes to eliminate agencies and decrease funding for most of them, while increasing funds for defense, Homeland Security and veterans. Among the cuts proposed, there would be a $1.2 billion cut to after-school and summer programs that provide food for hunger-stricken children, according to TIME.
Also, a Housing and Urban Development program called Community Development Block Grants, which provides grants to free-reduced lunch programs and Meals on Wheels, would cease to exist. The Trump administration’s Office of Management and Budget director, Mick Mulvaney, spoke about the decision in a press briefing last Thursday.
Mulvaney said there was no proof that these programs were helping hungry children do any better in school. Mulvaney believes Meals on Wheels “sounds great,” but the administration doesn’t want to continue spending money on programs that can’t show delivered promises.
There has always been speculation whether such programs have actually been helping hungry children improve in school. Furthermore, the uncertainty of whom it is helping, and if the children being served actually need it, has raised questions on whether taxpayers’ money is being well-spent.
This past year, the House of Representatives introduced H.R. 5003, which would reauthorize child nutrition programs, but seemed to only make it more difficult for some children to have access to these programs.
With proposed cuts such as Trump’s, and legislative actions to “improve” the way these programs work, it seems necessary to delve into why these programs exist and explain whom they are helping.
I attended a Title I high school where we all received free or reduced lunches depending on our situations. Every day, I saw the faces of people this program helped. According to the organization Children at Risk, 1 in 5 Texas households struggle with food insecurity. Moreover, more than 3 million Texas school children qualify for free or reduced lunches. In 2012, more than 31 million children across the nation were provided low-cost or free lunches daily.
A health report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, “Hunger due to insufficient food intake is associated with lower grades, higher rates of absenteeism, repeating a grade and an inability to focus among students.” Therefore, comments like Mulvaney’s seem frank and uncomplicated, and they can only be easy to say if he’s never experienced this. Although there is proof that children who get a sufficient amount of food intake and nutrients do substantially better, it should be more than enough to know we are feeding hungry children.
Children are deserving of a guaranteed, nutritious meal, but it is more of a privilege that they are not granted due to socioeconomic issues out of their control. For some, this is the only meal they will eat at all that day. For other children, it is the only balanced meal they will receive. Some children will wait for hours for their parents to get home after long work days and for others, the cheapest food to make is the least healthy. Isn’t that enough to be certain these programs are doing their “job?”
Additionally, cuts to these programs could be severe. As kids are out of school, hunger does not leave. Especially in the summer when kids are more vulnerable to hunger, the administration has to do better. A lot of these families happen to be unaware of these programs and there must be more of an effort to get them on board to provide the means to these children to receive proper meals.
Featured Illustration: Samuel Wiggins