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John Fetterman, Senate Dems Gonna Wipe Out 'Student Lunch Debt,' Give Everybody Eat
'Lunch debt' wasn't a thing when I was a kid. They just fed everyone. Weird!
While House Republicans are touting their bold new plan of fixing America’s problems by slashing funding for low-income schools and helping poor people become more resilient to extreme weather by eliminating home heating funding with winter coming on, a trio of Senate Democrats have introduced a bill that would actually help poor families and make sure their kids have a better shot at doing well in school by eliminating so-called “school lunch debt,” because why even is there such a thing?
Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pennsylvania) took to Xitter yesterday to call attention to the bill he’s introduced with Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and Peter Welch (D-Vermont) pointing out that
“School lunch debt” is a term so absurd that it shouldn’t even exist.
That’s why I’m proud to introduce a bill to CANCEL the nation’s student meal debt and stop humiliating kids and penalizing hunger.
It’s kind of a busy news day, so we’ll spare you the inevitable replies from blue-checkmark idiots who insist that if school meal debts are wiped out, then why do I have to keep paying my mortgage, huh?
In a joint statement with Whitehouse and Welch, Fetterman noted that September is Hunger Action Month, so taking action on hunger is a darn good idea.
The bill would direct the USDA, which runs federal school lunch programs, to pay for “all debts owed to schools for lunch or breakfast programs,” which the senators say amounts to some $262 million a year, leaving some 30 million kids cut off from school nutrition programs until their parents clear their debt. School districts will still feed those kids, often with the “cheese sandwich of shame” and a carton of milk, maybe an apple if the kid seems about to cry.
This is where we point out that to the federal government, $262 million is about 20 minutes of military spending in the current fiscal year. As far as we can tell, the bill doesn’t appropriate funds to cover the expense, but that’s OK for the current moment, since there’s no way something this helpful would pass in the Republican House.
As “messaging” bills go, though, it’s a hell of a good one, particularly when combined with a second proposal, by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota), which would restore the Agriculture Department’s pandemic-era program that provided school meals to all 50 million of America’s school kids at no cost to their parents.
This is where we cuff behind the ear any jerkwad who thinks it’s clever to say “It’s not free, it’s paid for by taxpayers!” Because hell yes, that is the point of government antipoverty and nutrition programs, which make life a little less horrible for low-income people even if it makes Fox News anchors pretend to be outraged, and Fox News viewers genuinely apoplectic because they don’t know they’re being scammed.
So far, roughly a dozen states — now including Fetterman’s home state of Pennsylvania, thanks, Josh Shapiro! — have passed laws to provide universal school meals, which schools like too because they no longer have the overhead costs of checking to see who qualifies for free or reduced price meals, or collecting and tracking the payments from families that don’t qualify.
We know that probably not enough Americans have read Catch-22 as obsessively as some of us, so the slogan “Give everybody eat!” won’t quite work as a 2024 campaign slogan. But by god the sentiment should.
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