Sen. Blanche Lincoln has been trying to get a little political traction this week with her work in passing an increase in federal support for child nutrition programs. School lunches could get healthier.
But there are naysayers. The NY Times editorialized critically yesterday about where Lincoln found the money to pay for nutrition increases — out of the food stamp program. Robbing the poor to give to the kids (not all of them in school lunchrooms are poor, by the way).
Originally, school nutrition was slated to be paid for by cuts in a farm conservation program. But Republicans rated this a high priority for the livestock industry. A deal was struck with Democrats to cut back on the scheduled boost in future food stamp benefits that was part of last year’s economic stimulus. Food stamps took a second hit as lawmakers turned to it like an all-purpose A.T.M. to help cover the cost of state aid.
Senator Blanche Lincoln, a Democrat of Arkansas who fought hard to get the school nutrition improvements, told Politico.com that the food stamp increase was doomed in any case: “You saw the teachers grab for it.” Her comfort was those dollars would feed children. But this is a pale rationalization that downgrades the hunger of entire families. A companion bill in the House, yet to be paid for, is an opportunity to right this wrong.
In the crunch of the recession, if Congress lacks the guts to meet vital needs with deficit financing, it should have the decency to chisel some less-humane program than food stamps.
I wouldn't think Lincoln's opponent, Republican John Boozman, will make much of this. Cutting food stamps is just the sort of thing he'd like. Here's more background on the food stamp reductions.