A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Schools districts say cuts to SNAP benefits could worsen Commonwealth’s student hunger problem

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

Kentucky school districts say a proposed bill to tighten restrictions on SNAP participation will lead to an uptick in student hunger.

House Bill 367 would lower the income threshold for SNAP eligibility from 200% of the federal poverty level to 130% and would end a policy allowing more people to use the federal food assistance program.

Tracy Pulley, family resource and youth services coordinator for Fulton Independent Schools, said the changes would also affect funding for school breakfast, lunch and dinner programs; noting a majority of students in her district qualify for free school meals and take-home boxes.

A Kentucky bill to ban Broad Based Categorical Eligibility for the federal SNAP program would result in at least 21,400 children losing SNAP statewide and would threaten funding for meals at schools and child care centers, according to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. (NKyTribune file)

She noted over the past decade, the number of boxes distributed monthly to kids has jumped by 400%.

“The parents here they do work,” Pulley observed. “Many of our families, our parents have two jobs, and they are still not able to buy enough food for their household to keep their children from being hungry.”

House Bill 367 was stalled last week in a Senate committee but the measure could still make its way through the legislature. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Wade Williams, R-Earlington, argued the changes would help ensure only people who are in truly in need can use SNAP benefits and would save the state money.

Jay Brewer, superintendent of Dayton Independent Schools, said reducing SNAP enrollment will have a domino effect. He argued fewer schools will be able to join the Community Eligibility program, which allows districts to feed all students at no cost to families, and added many Kentucky children’s only opportunity to eat protein-rich meals with fruits and vegetables is at school.

“When looking for solutions, we need to always be asking does this work and does this help?” Brewer asserted. “What often works doesn’t always help. House Bill 367 might work to reduce the number of people receiving public assistance. But it doesn’t help Kentucky kids.”

Under the proposed bill, more than 21,000 students would lose SNAP benefits statewide and school districts who participate in the federal Community Eligibility for School Meals program, which is partially based on child SNAP participation data, could lose funding, according to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment