A proposed pilot program designed to provide lunches to low-income children when school isn't in session will only be available to "rural," and not "urban" American children, according to a Politico report on the GOP-led House agricultural budget bill. The strange omission, spotted by Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall (and also by MSNBC), pertains to the Obama administration's request for funding to extend a demonstration program that feeds kids when school's out.
Here's the relevant Politico passage, which Marshall notes carries "a degree of understatement":
in a surprising twist, the bill language specifies that only rural areas are to benefit in the future from funding requested by the administration this year to continue a modest summer demonstration program to help children from low-income households — both urban and rural — during those months when school meals are not available.
Since 2010, the program has operated from an initial appropriation of $85 million, and the goal has been to test alternative approaches to distribute aid when schools are not in session. The White House asked for an additional $30 million to continue the effort, but the House bill provides $27 million for what’s described as an entirely new pilot program focused on rural areas only.
Democrats were surprised to see urban children were excluded. And the GOP had some trouble explaining the history itself. But a spokeswoman confirmed that the intent of the bill is a pilot project in “rural areas” only.
The program in question was initiated in the 2010 appropriations bill, as a demonstration program that placed no limitations on the type of community eligible for that funding, urban or rural. But the proposed House GOP bill adds a line: "$27,000,000 shall remain available until expended to carry out section 749(g) of the Agriculture Appropriations Act of 2010 (Public Law 111–80) in rural counties designated in 40 U.S.C. 14102." Hmm.
The exclusion of "urban" children from the pilot program isn't the only part of the bill that's raising eyebrows this week. The bill would also allow schools to opt-out of the healthier school lunch programs recently rolled out across the country. And, the bill would make it easier (after a lengthy lobbying campaign from the potato industry) for the white potato to make its way back onto WIC nutritional guidelines for low-income children and pregnant women.