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Politics & Government

Proposed SNAP rule could affect children's access to school lunch program

Cafeteria food pictured from a May Delaware DOE news release announcing the policy for free and reduced meals for 2019-2020

A proposed Trump administration rule could affect some First State children on the free or reduced lunch program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to limit who automatically qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. It also seeks to prevent Delaware and more than 40 other states from giving food assistance to those making more than 130 percent of the federal poverty level or who exceed federal asset limits.

Delaware Department of Health and Social Services officials say 1,344 children statewide could be impacted. Division of Social Services Director Ray Fitzgerald said children of households that no longer qualify for SNAP may also stop receiving free or reduced cost lunches.

“Either at their yearly reauthorization or at their periodic check-in, for lack of a better word, that’s likely to be when we will determine their eligibility without consideration of categorical eligibility,” he said.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue visited Delaware’s State Fair last month. He said during his visit that students can stay in the lunch program if they meet federal income and asset criteria.

“We’ve got a few people that have violated this and taken advantage of a loophole that’s unfair," he said. "And that’s what we’re stopping.”

A spokeswoman for the Delaware Department of Education said families already approved for the free or reduced lunch program this school year won’t have to reapply. Some children also qualify for the lunch program without being on SNAP or through other programs.

The rule is currently open for public comment until Sept. 23rd. After reviewing public comments, USDA could decide to finalize the rule as proposed or make changes to the language.

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