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Republican budget proposal would do away with universal free school lunches

A girl carries a school lunch tray.
A girl carries a school lunch tray.Tetra Images via Getty Images
  • A 2025 budget proposal backed by 170 House Republicans would nix a universal free school lunch program.

  • The Republican Study Committee budget is a glimpse at GOP priorities should they win in November.

  • Only nine states provide free school lunch to all students right now.

There's no such thing as a free lunch. That's the future that some Republicans appear to want at least.

The Republican Study Committee, a congressional caucus that contains around three-fourths of Republicans in the House of Representatives, released its 2025 fiscal year budget report this week. The budget is unlikely to pass any time soon but offers a glimpse of Republican priorities should they win in November.

The budget aims to reform school lunch subsidies by eliminating the "community eligibility provision" from the federal School Lunch Program.

The community eligibility provision funds school lunches for all children enrolled in the school regardless of their individual needs. The proposed RSC Budget would eliminate that provision to ensure school lunch provisions go to only "truly needy households," the report says.

There are only nine states that provide free school lunch to all students regardless of their status, according to the NYC Food Policy Center at Hunter College. States with universal free lunch include California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Main, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Vermont.

Similar bills have also been considered by lawmakers in more than 20 states and Washington, DC.

Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, chair of the RSC, said in a statement that the budget addresses growing federal debts and is "proof that it's possible to balance the budget, it's possible to operate in the black."

"Conservative policies work together across the whole of government to lower spending, lower taxes, decrease the size and scope of the federal government, and spur economic growth," Hern said in a statement.

The RSC budget says that it would give states block grants for child nutrition programs that have a "phased-in state cost share" to incentivize efficient distribution and prevent what it calls "widespread fraud" in the programs.

Crystal FitzSimons, director of child nutrition programs and policy at the Food Research & Action Center, told The Intercept that this kind of proposal has been floated before but couldn't gain traction because it threatens crucial standards for nutrition in schools. It also creates onerous administrative work for schools and families.

"At this point, we have over 40,000 schools participating in community eligibility, and that allows them to offer breakfast and lunch to all students at no charge," FitzSimons said.

Read the original article on Business Insider