If you want to know the difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party in one stark example, its OMB director Mick Mulvaney’s defense of cuts to eliminate free or reduce school meals for poor kids and Meals on Wheels for seniors as being “compassionate to taxpayers.”
Let’s break this down a bit. The cost of Meals on Wheels for providing not only a hot meal to seniors daily — as well as needed human contact and social interaction — for one year is less money than a night’s stay in a hospital for a senior citizen. And there’s lots of data on how free or reduced school lunches help kids perform better in school. More on that in a second.
Under Trump’s plan, a popular HUD program known as Community Development Block Grants would be ended. The grants are pots of money given to the states to fund various social programs, including free and reduced-price school meals for children from low income families and Meals on Wheels, the national nonprofit that coordinates volunteers at the community level who cook and drive meals to homebound seniors.
The program cost $3 billion in the last federal budget.
Mulvaney said many of the social programs that were being funded by the grants have not lived up to their missions and deserve to be cut.
“Meals on Wheels sounds great,” Mulvaney said, adding “we’re not going to spend [money] on programs that cannot show that they actually deliver the promises that we’ve made to people.”
He said Trump’s spending plan delivers on the promise he made during the campaign, to cut wasteful spending.
“You’re only focusing on half of the equation, right? You’re focusing on recipients of the money. We’re trying to focus on both the recipients of the money and the folks who give us the money in the first place,” Mulvaney told reporters. “And I think it’s fairly compassionate to go to them and say, ‘Look, we’re not going to ask you for your hard-earned money anymore … unless we can guarantee to you that that money is actually going to be used in a proper function. And I think that is about as compassionate as you can get.”
Mulvaney also took aim at the school lunch program, which he said was enacted to improve the education of low-income students. Those results have not materialized, he said.
“They’re supposed to be educational programs, right? I mean, that’s what they’re supposed to do. They’re supposed to help kids who don’t get fed at home get fed so they do better in school,” Mulvaney said. “Guess what? There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually doing that. There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually helping results, helping kids do better in school… And we can’t prove that that’s happening.”
For context, the cost of this entire block grant program is the cost of security for one trip to Florida at Mar-A-Lago for President Trump one weekend. Might I suggest Camp David for the weekend and save the program.
In Orange County, 49 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced lunches in 2015 according to Kidsdata.org. A child’s family income needs to fall below 130% of federal poverty guidelines ($31,005 for a family of four) to qualify for free meals or below 185% of the federal poverty guidelines ($44,123) for a family of four in 2014-2015 to qualify for reduced price meals.
And there’s a wealth of data that exists demonstrating the benefit of free and reduced meals fed to students on academic performance. From the Kidsdata site with footnotes:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as not having consistent, dependable access to enough food for active, healthy living (1). Approximately one in five U.S. children live in food-insecure households (2). Food-insecure children are more likely to experience a host of health issues, including developmental, cognitive, behavioral, and mental health problems (3). Among pregnant women, food insecurity is associated with physical and mental health problems, as well as birth complications (3). Children and communities of color are disproportionately affected by food insecurity (3).
Food assistance programs, such as food stamps (i.e., SNAP, or CalFresh in California), the Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, provide a safety net to help ensure that low-income children, expectant mothers, and families get adequate nutrition. These programs have been shown to reduce poverty, improve birth outcomes, and improve children’s health in general (4, 5). Student participation in the National School Breakfast Program also is associated with improved school performance and cognitive functioning (6).
Student eligibility for free or reduced price school meals (one measure in this topic) also serves as a useful proxy indicator of family poverty. Income eligibility for these meals goes up to 185% of the federal poverty level, which was about $44,000 for a family of four in 2014-2015. The low federal poverty threshold tends to underestimate the extent of poverty, particularly in high cost areas. Research indicates that families in California can earn two or more times the federal poverty level and still struggle to meet their basic needs (7).
Sources for this narrative:
1. Coleman-Jensen, A., et al. (2016). Household food security in the United States in 2015. (Economic Research Report No. 215). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Retrieved from: http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=79760
2. As cited on kidsdata.org, Children living in food insecure households. (2016). Gundersen, C., et al., Map the meal gap 2016: Food insecurity and child food insecurity estimates at the county level. Feeding America.
3. California Dept. of Public Health, Office of Health Equity. (2015). Portrait of promise: The California statewide plan to promote health and mental health equity. Food Insecurity and Nutrition section. Retrieved from: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/Documents/Accessible-CDPH_OHE_Disparity_Report_Final.pdf
4. Gundersen, C. (2015). Food assistance programs and child health. The Future of Children, 25(1), 91-109. Retrieved from: http://www.futureofchildren.org/publications/journals/journal_details/index.xml?journalid=83
5. Rossin-Slater, M. (2015). Promoting health in early childhood. The Future of Children, 25(1), 35-64. Retrieved from: http://www.futureofchildren.org/publications/journals/journal_details/index.xml?journalid=83
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Health and academic achievement. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/health_and_academics/pdf/health-academic-achievement.pdf
7. As cited on kidsdata.org, Self-Sufficiency Standard. (2014). Insight Center for Community Economic Development and Dr. Diana Pearce, California Family Economic Self-Sufficiency Standard. Center for Women’s Welfare, School of Social Work, University of Washington.
During the 2012–2013 school year, more than 30 million students participated in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report. By providing healthy lunches, schools can help their students perform better in the classroom and improve their overall health.
The State of School Lunches
The School Nutrition Association (SNA) is the largest professional organization for school lunch providers in the country, with 55,000 members. The SNA offers a fact sheet of statistics about the current state of the National School Lunch Program.
Through the program, nearly 100,000 schools and institutions serve lunches each day. Of the total 30 million students served:
- 2 million are receiving free lunches (children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible)
- 5 million are receiving reduced-price lunches (children from families with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible)
- 7 million pay full price (school districts set their own prices for paid meals)
Currently, 130 percent of the poverty level is $31,005 for a family of four, and 185 percent is $44,123.
This data points toward one of the major issues with school lunches in America. If 19.2 million students are receiving free lunches due to their socioeconomic status, school lunch could be their only opportunity for a nutritious meal each day.
The National School Lunch Program costs the country $12.65 billion. Almost all of this money comes from the federal government.
For years, scientists have been studying the effect of nutrition on student performance. In 2008, a Journal of School Health study discovered that fifth-graders eating fast food scored worse on standardized literary assessments. A follow-up study of fifth-graders published in The Journal of Educational Research in 2012 linked eating fast food to declining math and reading scores. How exactly do these foods affect children?
Nutrition can affect students either directly or indirectly. A 2014 report, “Nutrition and Students’ Academic Performance,” summarizes research on these issues.
Scientists have also established a link between student behavior and nutrition. Access to proper nutrition can help students maintain psychosocial well-being and reduce aggression. This can have a positive effect on students by avoiding discipline and school suspension.
The indirect effects of poor nutrition can be severely detrimental to the performance of students over time. Students with unhealthy lifestyles are far more likely to become sick. These illnesses then have an effect on the amount of class time missed. By not attending classes, students are much more likely to fall behind. And when they are in class, they are more likely to have little energy and to have concentration issues.
This administration denies science, emphasizes defense and homeland security over people, programs and policies that make America great.
There’s a quote attributed to Winston Churchill about cutting arts during World War II that’s actually been debunked — Churchill never said it. When Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding to support the war effort, he replied: “Then what are we fighting for?” Even though the quote is not attributed correctly, the comment is more than apt. If we’re spending so much money on defense expansion and Homeland Security, just what the hell are we keeping American safe for and what are we keeping it safe from?
a note on the photo above; what a school lunch looked like before Michelle Obama’s program to make school lunches better nutritionally.