opinion

COLUMN: Rokita tries to restrict school lunches



Indiana congressman, Rep. Todd Rokita R-(4th District) has introduced legislation that would make it significantly more difficult for children to get access to school lunches in the future.

The proposed change is ultimately unnecessary and will restrict students’ access to affordable nutrition, which can significantly impact their academic 
abilities.

Indiana Public Media reported Rokita introduced the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act, which, so far, has already passed the House Education and Workforce 
Committee.

The bill would revise a 2010 law, the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which states if at least 40 percent of a school’s students qualify for free or reduced lunch then all students in the school are eligible for free lunches.

Rokita has proposed raising the 40-percent threshold to 60 percent. This move means in a place like Wayne Township, for example, seven of the 11 schools present in the township would no longer meet the requirements, as the Indianapolis Star 
reported.

According to Slate, “as of 2013, 51 percent of American public-school students were low-income, and by raising the eligibility threshold to 60 percent, quite a few students would fall through the donut hole.”

The 40-percent threshold streamlines the process to ensure low-income students get the food they need for the day. If a school reaches the 40-percent mark, it no longer has to process free and reduced lunch applications individually and can guarantee as many students as possible to receive access to free lunches.

The legislation has already received widespread condemnation from student advocate to public health organizations 
nationwide.

According to FOX 59, more than 750 organizations nationwide wrote a letter addressed to Rokita and three other members of the House Education and Workforce Committee that opposed the legislation.

Additionally, the letter said “the bill would weaken evidence-based school nutrition standards for meals, as well as for snacks and beverages.”

The letter cited 98.5 percent of school districts have so far met the requirements for school nutrition standards, and many of the standards significantly improve the quality of food that goes into our nation’s schools.

The Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act is not necessary for America’s schools. By raising the eligibility threshold from 40 to 60 percent, schools with a significant amount of lower-income students would have a more difficult effort to get the lunches their students need in order to reach their fullest potential.

The act in its current form impairs students from reaching that potential. That is why I, too, would like to see our nation’s students receive the lunches they need to become the best students they can be.

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