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House Conservatives Block Food to Needy City Kids




Under the deceptively bland headline, “House GOP Releases Ag Budget,” the center-right Politico website on Monday examined a proposed House Republican budget for agriculture and food safety programs. After noting that the bill would give a measly $3 million increase to efforts to regulate the derivatives market ($62 million less than the Commodity Futures Trading Commission requested), writer David Rogers reported that the GOP measure would make it easier for schools to adopt lower nutritional standards for their meal programs — and for starch bombs like white potatoes to be included as vegetables that are covered by a Women, Infants and Children supplemental feeding program.

Only way down, in the story’s fourth paragraph, did Rogers mention that, “in a surprising twist,” the House Republicans required that a pilot program to feed school children from low-income families during summer vacation be restricted to kids living in rural Appalachia. In other words, urban children need not apply – this food program is only to help mostly white, mostly Republican families. And oh yes, the program will be cut from $85 million to $27 million.

This buried gold leaped out at editors at Talking Points Memo, however. On Wednesday, TPM congressional correspondent Sahil Kapur laid out the bill’s implications (including its racial coding) by interviewing anti-hunger advocates and policy makers.

“Kids are already under-served by the summer school program . . . there are not enough food programs for low-income children in rural and urban areas,” Kapur was told by Crystal FitzSimons, director of school programs at the nonprofit Food Research and Action Center .

An unnamed Democratic congressional aide was especially blunt about this part of the agriculture budget.

“It’s not clear to me if this was a fuck-up or if it was plainly mean-spirited or what happened,” the aid told Kapur. “But we’re going to work to change it.”

The day after the TPM article, Robert Schlesinger, an editor at the conservative U.S. News & World Report, conceded that the rural meal program was a “target” for Republicans, but assured everyone that “poor urban children will still eat.” Whew!

Schlesinger’s piece was accompanied by a photo of a lunch tray holding plates stacked with white rice, slices of white bread, lettuce leaves and some kind of gooey meat stuff parked a few inches away from a doughnut. Better than letting them eat cake, the picture seemed to suggest.

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