A report released today brings some positive news from the administration on dealing with childhood hunger. According to a story by Bryce Covert on ThinkProgress Michelle Obama and the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Tim Vilsack are going to announce a new program that will provide free breakfast and lunch to school children regardless of income. The article states this is due to a pilot program that was launched in 11 states previously but will be expanded to 22,000 nationwide beginning in July 2014. It will take effect in schools where 40% or more of the students are already eligible for free and reduced cost meals. The projected number of children who will benefit from this is around nine million. High poverty areas will receive the most benefit from this program, areas that have been hit hardest by cuts to federal benefits.
The effect of this type of program can be phenomenal since scientific studies have shown that poor nutrition can severely impact a child’s ability to learn and develop socially as well as lead to mental illness in some cases. Often children who do receive free or reduced lunch are embarrassed by having their hands stamped or having insufficient funds in their account to cover the cost of a meal. Recently we have heard of cafeteria workers actually discarding lunches that have not been paid for leaving children hungry. This program eliminates the stigma of free lunch and makes all children equal. Since it has been reported that 1 in 5 American children do not receive adequate nutrition this is a brilliant move on the part of the administration. With the recent cuts in SNAP benefits this program may reduce the negative impact that would be felt by children in affected households.