Republican Governors in 15 States Opt Out of Essential Child Food Assistance Programme Over Summer

There has been a controversial decision from Republican governors in 15 states, who have decided that children from lower-income families will not receive food assistance during the months of Summer break.

Denial Across 15 States

Republican governors in 15 states are opting out of a federally funded program designed to provide food assistance to underprivileged children during the summer months, leaving approximately 8 million children without crucial benefits. These governors cite reasons ranging from the cost of the program to scepticism about welfare.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds expressed reservations about adding funds to a program tackling food insecurity, stressing concerns about childhood obesity. Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen bluntly stated, “I don’t believe in welfare.”

Despite bipartisan approval in the 2022 budget agreement, Republican leaders defend their decision, arguing the need to revert to pre-pandemic spending levels amid the country’s soaring debt. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack lamented the stance, “There isn’t really a political reason for not doing this.

This is unfortunate. I think governors may not have taken the time or made the effort to understand what this program is and what it isn’t.” The program, expected to serve 21 million children starting around June with $2.5 billion in relief, faces resistance in states crucial for its success.

A Rise in Food Insecurity

Nonprofit assistance groups in states refusing participation express deep concern about the devastating consequences. Oklahoma, having relied on pandemic food relief for over 350,000 children in need during previous summers, now faces a significant gap with no statewide replacement, putting immense pressure on private food banks.

Food insecurity rates increased sharply in 2022, with 17.3 percent of households with children lacking enough food, up from 12.5 percent in 2021, according to the USDA. The refusal of states to participate adds strain to an already dire situation, with the burden falling on private organizations to address the growing hunger crisis.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” said the CE of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. “Many children this summer won’t have access to the food they need. It is really scary and gives me goose bumps just saying it out loud to you,” she revealed.

States Rejecting the Program

Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming join Iowa and Nebraska in refusing to participate. Several of these states have not fully extended Medicaid eligibility to low-income individuals.

Criticism mounts as some governors justify their decisions with questionable reasoning. Iowa Governor Reynolds suggested that the program’s few restrictions on food purchases do  “nothing to promote nutrition at a time when childhood obesity has become an epidemic.”

Countering Reynolds’ argument, Harvard’s Erica Kenney said, “There is no evidence that a program like this has anything to do with childhood obesity,” suggesting, “It’s absolutely true you can have obesity and be struggling to get food on the table for your family. It is not at all true that helping people who are struggling financially means they’re going to eat more and gain weight.”

Advocacy for Summer Benefit Programs

Nutrition advocates have long pushed for comprehensive summer food assistance programs beyond existing on-site meal programs, which can be challenging for parents to access, especially in rural areas. Only about 1 in 6 eligible children make it to summer feeding sites due to transportation difficulties.

Critics expressed dismay at the misinformed decisions of some governors. Rejecting the summer benefit program, which aims to reduce extreme childhood hunger and provide access to healthier options, appears to disregard the positive impact such initiatives could have on vulnerable children during the summer months.

Stories from affected families, such as stay-at-home mother Roxey Clayburn from Oklahoma City, reveal the personal toll of these decisions. “It’s stressful,” Clayburn admitted, “because they’re here all day in the summertime, and the bigger they get, the more they eat, too.” 

Local Efforts and Potential Future Participation

Local efforts are underway to address the gap left by state refusals. In Oklahoma, sovereign Indian nations, including the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Osage, have opted to join the new program, expecting to reach around 100,000 students. The USDA continues discussions with states about potential future participation in the program.

In Nebraska, a bipartisan group of state senators is filing legislation to compel the state’s Department of Health and Human Services to participate in the program. The group argued that the programme is “unnecessary and is not adequate to meeting the needs of children. … Handing out money is not enough to meet kid’s needs. They need much more.”

The post Republican Governors In 15 States Opt Out Of Essential Child Food Assistance Programme Over Summer first appeared on Edge Media.

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / fizkes.

Oscar Davies, an expert in US and UK politics and sports, is renowned for his sharp and engaging writing style, appealing to a broad spectrum of readers.

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