Up to 2,000 kids could see changes to free-and-reduced lunch access

A proposed change to food-stamp eligibility could prevent half a million kids across the country from receiving free and reduced price meals at public schools, according to national media reports.

A proposal from the Trump administration to change financial requirements for food stamps would mean some 3 million people in the U.S. no longer qualify for food stamps, the Washington Post reported.

Because food stamps are one way that kids qualify for free and reduced lunch in many states, the changes could also impact free lunch at school. The Post estimates 500,000 kids could lose access to the program. 

A relatively small share of those kids live in Idaho, according to estimates by state departments.

This summer, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare estimated that about 2,000 Idaho children could lose access to food stamps if the proposed rule is enacted.

It’s not clear how many of those kids could lose access to free and reduced-priced food at school. But, because of the way that program works, the final number would likely be fewer than 2,000 kids.

Scott Phillips, a spokesman for the State Department of Education, says there are too many unknown variables for the department to nail down a concrete number of kids who might no-longer qualify for free and reduced lunch.

For instance, some kids who lose access to food stamp benefits might still qualify for free and reduced lunch because of family income. Also, Phillips said, it’s hard to say if those 2,000 children are currently enrolled in Idaho public schools, or receiving free and reduced lunch.

“There are a lot of variables at play that make it very difficult to extrapolate those numbers,” he said.

Even if up to 2,000 kids no longer qualify for free and reduced price lunch program –  which is unlikely – that number would still be a very small share of the  kids who participate in the program statewide. As of October 2018, Phillips said some 128,794 kids were enrolled in the free and reduced priced lunch program.

Other states estimate they could see a larger impact.

The Seattle Times reported earlier this month that up to 15,600 kids could lose food stamp access in Washington. Wisconsin press reported that some 8,800 students in that state would lose free-lunch status. 

For now, SDE child nutrition director Colleen Fillmore said the state is in “waiting mode” to see if that rule is enacted, and how things will play out.

Sami Edge

Sami Edge

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