President’s Budget Slashes School Meals, National Service, and Food Benefits

Last week, President Trump released his proposed budget for the 2020 federal fiscal year, brashly titled “A Budget for a Better America.” But a quick glance at the ideas in the budget begs the question: better for whom? As expected, this budget reprises the short-sighted cuts in his past budget proposals while introducing new slashes that would harm communities, increase inequality, and heighten disparities. Fortunately, the president’s budget proposal is just a proposal and Congress ultimately makes the final decision. However, as we’ve seen over the past two-plus years, the Trump administration can still try to pursue these policy changes on their own through executive actions and regulatory changes.

As expected, this budget reprises the short-sighted cuts in his past budget proposals while introducing new slashes that would harm communities, increase inequality, and heighten disparities.

Here’s a rundown on some of the policies FoodCorps tracks closely and how they fared in the budget:

It eliminates AmeriCorps and all federal national service programs

For the third time in a row, the President’s budget calls for eliminating the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the agency that runs AmeriCorps. FoodCorps is proud to be part of the AmeriCorps service community, tapping into a model of public-private partnership that leverages federal and philanthropic investment to harness the “people power” of national service. Thanks to your emails, calls, and advocacy, Congress—on a bipartisan basis —has wisely rejected the President’s last two attempts to abolish national service. However, the threat is still real; with spending limits tight, Congress is weighing many funding priorities and lawmakers need to hear from their constituents that they should prioritize national service.

We need your voice as we work with our partners to protect AmeriCorps. Urge your Congress members to protect and expand national service now.

It takes billions of dollars away from school meals

Unfortunately, the hits keep coming as we turn to the President’s proposals for food policy: proposals—when combined with proposed cuts to health insurance, housing assistance, and other vital programs—that would increase hunger and worsen nutrition for millions of people (this is not an exaggeration). The President’s budget calls for a cut of $1.7 billion to school meals over 10 years through two proposals:

  1. Reducing schools’ ability to offer free meals to all students. First, they propose changes that would reduce the number of schools that can use the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), a popular and effective way for schools with fewer resources to serve breakfast and lunch to all students at no cost to the children. Wildly successful, CEP increases participation in school meals, reduces stigma because all kids are served at no cost, and cuts paperwork because schools no longer need to collect meal applications.
  2. Adding burdensome red tape to school meals. Second, the budget also calls for increasing the red tape related to how schools determine and verify if students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals; red tape that could result in eligible kids losing access to these meals.

It deletes enormous funding for food benefits

The President’s budget also calls for cutting $220 billion from SNAP over 10 years. Yes, that’s $220 BILLION. As some of you may recall from last year, the budget resurrects the widely mocked “America’s Harvest Box” idea that would turn a portion of SNAP benefits into a pre-packaged food box with items such as pasta, canned fruit, shelf-stable milk, and other items. The budget also calls for other changes to SNAP that would restrict and tighten eligibility and drive many off the program, increasing hunger for many low-income Americans.

Looking at broader food and ag policy issues, the budget also calls for troubling cuts to conservation programs, agriculture research, rural development and other areas.

Congress or USDA will need to take further steps to turn these proposals into policy. We will continue to monitor the situation and let you know if and when to raise your voice to advocate against these harmful changes.