As chefs, we know the important role food plays in people’s lives. We also know how critical it is for growing kids to get the healthy food they need every day so they can learn and thrive. It’s unfathomable for us to think that 1 out of every 4 kids in Texas lives with hunger – and we lose our appetites to think that a new proposal by the Administration will make this hunger much worse.
But that’s exactly what will happen if the White House restricts a policy called Broad Based Categorical Eligibility, which helps low-income working families enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) if they’re already eligible for other anti-poverty programs.
This would be a massive step backwards in the fight against childhood hunger.
Here’s why: Syncing eligibility for these programs does a lot of good for families in need. It reduces bureaucratic red tape, meaning families in need of benefits receive a streamlined application process. Families seeking a way out of poverty while working in low-wage jobs have the time to phase off SNAP rather than grapple with a hard cut-off. And by automatically enrolling kids in the free school lunch program if their families participate in SNAP, we help ensure that kids living with hunger receive the three meals a day they need to grow up healthy and strong.
Simply put, more kids will be hungry if this rule becomes reality.
Specifically, restricting this policy will result in more than 3 million low-income people losing access to SNAP in the U.S. And Texas would be the hardest hit by this new rule, with more households losing benefits than any other state in the nation. In fact, more than 200,000 Texans who live in families with kids and currently receive SNAP would lose their benefits if this new rule goes into effect.
And that’s a huge problem.
SNAP is one of our nation’s most powerful tools for ending childhood hunger. It gives families food purchasing power so that they can shop for and prepare food on a budget. SNAP directly impacts food insecurity for kids, which impacts education and health outcomes for life. Low-income kids who receive SNAP benefits are more likely to graduate from high school and to have better physical health. Every year, it lifts millions of children out of poverty.
But the impact of this flawed proposal doesn’t end there. Since SNAP eligibility is tied to eligibility for free school meals, this rule stands to put school meals in jeopardy for more than 500,000 kids across the nation.
This means kids will face a devastating double whammy: lost meals at home and at school.
We already know that hunger affects a child’s ability to learn. Empty bellies mean full school offices – from the nurse, to the principal, to detention. When kids are hungry they can’t concentrate, which increases behavioral and discipline problems. Kids are more likely to be sick when they’re hungry. Test scores drop and school attendance levels fall.
When kids have consistent, reliable access to nutrition food – at home and at school – it helps them learn more, stay healthier and grow up stronger.
Escaping the cycle of poverty is possible when kids get the nutrition they need. But this rule only penalizes poverty.
It also hurts our local economy here in Texas. Restricting this policy would erode the demonstrated economic benefits of SNAP to the local economy and across the nation.
As culinary professionals, we don’t just prepare and serve food. We nourish minds and bodies. We know the power of food. That’s why we often step outside of our kitchens to support initiatives like the No Kid Hungry campaign, which seeks to end childhood hunger in America.
It’s also why we know our nation has the resources and solutions to make ending hunger a reality. We have the ability to make a huge impact on child hunger in Texas and across the country. All we need is more political will to make it happen, and stopping this rule is the next step.
Leonard Botello IV (Truth BBQ – Houston), John Brand (Hotel Emma – San Antonio), Bryce Gilmore (Barley Swine, Odd Duck, Sour Duck Market – Austin), Alba Huerta (Julep Houston – Houston), Rebecca Masson (Fluff Bake Bar – Houston), Ryan Pera (Agricole Hospitality – Houston), Amanda Rockman (New Waterloo – Austin), and Chris Shepherd (Underbelly Hospitality – Houston) are chefs, culinary professionals, and restaurateurs, all proud members of No Kid Hungry’s culinary community in Texas.
About No Kid Hungry
No child should go hungry in America. But 1 in 6 kids will face hunger this year. No Kid Hungry is ending childhood hunger through effective programs that provide kids with the food they need. This is a problem we know how to solve. No Kid Hungry is a campaign of Share Our Strength, an organization working to end hunger and poverty. Join us at NoKidHungry.org