A bill in Congress could impact kids receiving free school lunches

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Big changes could be coming to schools if Congress passes a bill. It would limit the number of schools that qualify for free and reduced-priced lunches.

The bill would raise the qualifications for the Community Eligibility Provision. The current guidelines require schools, which receive these lunches from funding allotted by the federal government, must have 40 percent of students in the school on government assistance; the new bill raises that requirement to 60 percent. That increase would eliminate 399 New York State schools that currently receiving free and reduced-priced meals and it would make more than 700 schools not eligible to ever apply to be a part of the program.

“These children who are food insecure, a lot of them are relying on the free and reduced price school lunch program,” said Catherine Shick, the Public and Community Relations Coordinator for the Food Bank of WNY.

The Food Bank reports at least 50 percent of local children qualify for free and reduced-priced school meals.

“We know that children who receive the free and reduced-price meal at school, that is often their main meal and their most nutritious meal of the day,” said Shick.

The possibility of having that meal cut due to a number of local schools being on the list which would be eliminated is worrisome for Shick.

“We know our children face so many pressures in school alone just from the regular pressures of academics,” starts the public relations coordinator.  “When you’re trying to perform on an empty stomach and the anxiety of [not] knowing when you’re going to get that next meal, it is devestating to deal with.”

Shick says students who are hungry face additional struggles as well like behavioral problems, a tendency to be sick more frequently, and more prone to have difficulties learning. The coordinator believes a cut to school programs would impact communities and increase the need for assistance.

“If this were to be approved we would certainly see an increase in families and children who would rely on the Food Bank,” said Shick.

If you want to donate to the Food Bank, you can find out how to here.

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