Two Michigan U.S. representatives are among 28 House committee members who on Monday sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue expressing concerns with proposed rule changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
In the letter, U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.), U.S. Rep Haley Stevens (D-Rochester) and other members of the House Committee on Education and Labor wrote “in strong opposition” to the Trump administration’s proposed changes to SNAP eligibility rules that would affect childrens’ access to free school meals.
About 500,000 children could be denied access to school meals because of the proposed changes, according to the administration’s own analysis. In their letter, Democrats criticized the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) decision to withhold an analysis on how the changes affect students and families. The analysis was not made available during a public comment period on the USDA’s proposal.
“The Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) did not include discussion of the rule’s impact on free school meal eligibility,” committee members wrote. “According to your staff’s analysis, [it] would result in more than 500,000 children losing their automatic eligibility for free school meals.”
Committee members said both the SNAP and school meal programs are critical in combating food insecurity among children. The SNAP program — previously known as “food stamps” — allows eligible children from low-income families access to breakfast and lunch. Children whose families use SNAP can participate in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP).
“By undermining access to these essential programs, the proposed rule would worsen child food insecurity, with detrimental effects on children’s academic outcomes, health, and more,” committee members wrote.
More than 40 states use what’s called Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE) to determine which families and children can participate in these programs. BBCE requires states to place eligible applicant households in SNAP for food assistance if they’ve qualified for other low-income benefits.
It’s not the first time SNAP rule changes by the administration have been met with concern. In August, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and 16 other governors sent a letter to Perdue opposing a USDA proposal that seeks to impose restrictions on states’ ability to use BBCE. An estimated three million could lose food assistance benefits because of the rule, as the Advance previously reported.