States across the country are moving to provide universal free school meals to all our children. Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to stop them from doing just that.
The Republican Study Committee (of which some three-quarters of House Republicans are members) on Wednesday released its desired 2024 budget, in which the party boldly declares its priority to eliminate the Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP, from the School Lunch Program. Why? Because “CEP allows certain schools to provide free school lunches regardless of the individual eligibility of each student.”
Of note is that the CEP is not even something every school participates in; it is a meal service program reserved for qualifying schools and districts in low-income areas. The program enables schools that predominantly serve children from low-income backgrounds to offer all students free breakfast and lunch, instead of means-testing them and having to manage collecting applications on an individual basis. As with many universal-oriented programs, it is more practically efficient and, as a bonus, lifts all boats. This is what Republicans are looking to eliminate.
It’s the kind of provision that many would want every school to participate in. Why not guarantee all our children are well fed as they learn and think about our world and their place in it, after all?
But indeed, as California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, and as of this week, Vermont, all move to provide universal free school meals in one form or another—and at least another 21 states consider similar moves—Republicans are trying to whittle down avenues to accomplish that goal.
Along with trying to stop schools from giving all their students free meals, the proposed 2024 Republican budget includes efforts to:
- cut Social Security and Medicare
- make Trump’s tax cuts for the top 1 percent permanent
- impose work requirements on “all federal benefit programs,” like food stamps and Medicare
- extend work requirements on those aged 55–64
- bring back all of twice-impeached and twice-arrested former President Donald Trump’s deregulations, including the weakening of environmental protection.
And that’s just a taste of their hopes and dreams. But don’t mistake it all as just wish-casting: “The RSC Budget is more than just a financial statement. It is a statement of priorities,” the party assures in the document.