Lawmakers propose cutting back on students getting free or reduced price lunches

Lawmakers propose cutting back on students getting free or reduced price lunches

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - A proposal to cut the number of children receiving free and reduced school lunches passes its first hurdle in the nation's capitol.

Thousands of children would be affected by this bill pushed through a House committee by Republicans Wednesday.

Scaling back the number of students receiving free and reduced price meals at school is all about saving money in the budget, but this legislation is not well-received by some school nutritionists.

Schools around the country make sure students eat a well balanced meal, even if they don't have the money to pay.

"A lot of our families are not financially able to pay for meals and this is the only way they are receiving healthy meals," said Susan Schlader, School Nutrition Director of Muscogee County Schools.

In a 20-14 vote a bill was passed through the house education and workforce committee that would reduce the number of schools where all students receive free or reduced price lunches.

A nutritionist at the health department in Columbus say children need those three meals a day to have a healthy lifestyle.

"The beginning in what's sets the stage and the standard for their growth and development. For school purposes that's what would allow children to concentrate in the classroom and be better students and do better. So it's very very important," said Karye Rayborn, Nutritionist at West Central Health District.

The legislation would also allow a trial period of certain states to not receive federal money for students who qualify for the program.

"The funding under this would almost be eliminated. School nutrition programs are self-funding. We have our own budget and so we rely on the reimbursement from the federal government to maintain our program and if they reduce it down to where they are not funding us any longer we won't be able to sustain financially to provide meals to students," said Schlader.

School nutrition directors were asked by the school nutrition association or SNA to contact their senators and congressman to say they're opposed to the legislation.

73 percent of children in Muscogee County depend on free on reduced lunches this school year. That number is up from last year.

Outside of the classroom, the West Central Health District helps parents to make healthy choices when feeding the kids through their WIC (Women, Infant and Children) program. You can reach them at 706-31-6280.

Copyright 2016 WTVM. All rights reserved.