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By David McGuire
Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Indianapolis) proposed a bill that was eventually approved by a divided house that would change the federal school lunch program. The change of the program would both ease nutritional standards and make it harder for schools to qualify for the federal assistance they would need to offer free meals to all students. Rep. Rokita believes the bill would give schools more flexibility in trying to meet the nutritional standards while targeting assistance to students most in need.
I read a story in the Indianapolis Star about a mother who was concerned about the bill. She was a mother of students attending school in Wayne Township. The article mentioned how seven schools in Wayne currently offering free breakfast and lunch would no longer meet requirements if the bill becomes law. The schools are now reimbursed by the federal government to offer free breakfast and lunch to all students because at least 40 percent of students qualify for other government aid, but this threshold would increase to 60 percent under the proposed legislation, and the seven schools don’t hit that mark.
The article got me wondering so I decided to ask my neighbor who has kids in Wayne what she thought about the bill. After explaining details about the bill, I could see the expression on her face change I literally thought she was going to cry. A single mom of three school-age children, she works two jobs just to survive. If they made her pay for school lunch it would add even more of a burden on her.
Listening to her explain the importance of the free lunch program it got me thinking that this bill could cause serious damage to families. If the bill goes through and parents are forced to pay for lunch at school they will have to decide to give their kids lunch money or keep the lights or water on.
The story of my neighbor and the other parents who will suffer greatly from this bill needs to be read by Rep. Rokita. Maybe then he would understand the severity of this bill and the impact it will have on Indianapolis families.