November 01, 2019

Nag nag nag

Today is the last day to make a public comment on a bad policy that could take away free school breakfasts and lunches from a million schoolchildren in the US. Yes, I know I'm being a bore about this but indulge me for one more day.

Short background: the Trump administration wants to change eligibility for SNAP that will cut off over 3 million Americans from food assistance. That's bad enough. But this will also change eligibility for free school meals under the Community Eligibility Provision. To state the obvious, kids tend to learn and act better when they've had nutritious meals. This would make many of them be hungry at home AND at school.

Click here to comment.


October 30, 2019

Hate to be a bore, but urgent action needed by Nov. 1 to protect child nutrition

The WV Department of Education isn't known for sounding alarm bells about federal policy. So you KNOW things are bad when they release a statement like this:

Proposed SNAP Changes Could Negatively Affect West Virginia Students 
Charleston, W.Va. – Students in West Virginia could be at-risk for losing automatic free school meal eligibility under proposed changes to the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The proposed changes would adjust how students are directly certified to receive services meaning households across the state will lose automatic free or reduced school meals.
The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services (DHHR) are working closely to quickly and completely analyze the potential impact to West Virginia students during the USDA’s current public comment period.
It is estimated that more than 120,000 West Virginia households could be negatively affected by eliminating broad-based categorical eligibility as a policy in which households may become categorically eligible for SNAP in relation to another benefit, such as non-cash temporary assistance for needy families (TANF). In addition to the direct impact to these households, funding to West Virginia schools could be negatively affected. If the number of directly certified students decreases and those students are not captured by another federal direct certification indicator, school districts may have to discontinue implementing the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP). Many schools could find that they no longer qualify for CEP or that it is no longer financially viable. Therefore, the proposed rule would take away automatic free meals from additional children who otherwise would not be considered as being directly impacted by changes to the categorical eligibility in SNAP.
West Virginia has benefited greatly from the election of the CEP, a federal meal pricing benefit available to areas of high need. All of West Virginia’s 55 counties have at least one school that qualifies for CEP. During the 2019-20 school year, 43 counties have implemented the CEP for all students meaning all students eat breakfast and lunch for free; 10 counties have elected CEP partially, meaning some schools qualify, while other schools in the county do not; and two counties operate under the traditional method of free and reduced price meal applications throughout the county. Community eligibility uses the number of children directly certified for free school meals, primarily due to participation in SNAP, to determine if a school or district is eligible to implement CEP. The analysis of the proposed changes fails to consider the impacts on community eligibility provision.
“The proposed rule changes are concerning with nearly 1 million individuals estimated to be affected nationally,” said Amanda Harrison, Executive Director of the WVDE Office of Child Nutrition. “We know that hungry children do not perform at their best and when we meet the nutritional needs of our students, student achievement increases.”
The WVDE intends to submit comments to the USDA outlining the impact on Mountain State students and will make those comments public. The WVDE’s Office of Child Nutrition is also exploring other mechanisms or indicators that are in place to ensure that our neediest and most vulnerable students are directly certified for school meals.
If you haven't already, please click here to make your comments. The deadline is Nov. 1.

October 29, 2019

Urgent: act now to fight hunger in our schools

Short version: please act now to protect free breakfasts and lunches for tens of thousands of WV school children. You can click here to make comments to the USDA opposing rule changes to eligibility that could deny school food not only to thousands of individual students but whole schools and counties.

The deadline to make comments is Nov. 1, so this is urgent.

As an example, I submitted something like this, but you could keep it simple with just a sentence or two.

West Virginia has become a leader in child nutrition thanks to the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which expands free breakfasts and lunches to all students in schools where 40 percent or more of students are directly certified as being low income. The changes to SNAP eligibility proposed by the Trump administration would also impact CEP and could take away meals for one million individual students, as well as many entire schools and counties. Research has shown that universal access to school food has many benefits, including improved academic performance for poor and non-poor students, removing stigma, increasing participation in nutritious food programs, reducing hunger, supporting working parents and reducing paperwork for schools. The proposed changes should be rejected.
For background, here's a pretty scary news release from the WV Department of Education about the dangers this rule change poses for WV schools, parents and students. And not just WV but the whole country.

Please act quickly and spread the word. Thanks!