Letter: Feeling the Impact of the Shutdown

To the Editor:

The front-page picture of House Republicans using empty chairs on the other side of a table as a “photo op” in the Oct. 2 Valley News was particularly galling after the information I received the previous night at the monthly meeting of the Grantham School Board. We were informed that, due to the shutdown of the federal government, schools that provide free or reduced lunches to eligible children will not receive reimbursment after Oct. 1. What is unclear is whether reimbursements will be retroactive to the date of the shutdown when the federal government reopens. Further, an arrangement between schools and the federal food commodities program will be discontinued. For example, for every $60 the school contributes to the program, it becomes eligible for $600 worth of fresh fruit and vegetables provided through a federal program. This benefits all students.

Grantham is fortunate in that we do not have a large percentage of our student population who qualify for reduced lunch. However, the potential loss of between $1,600 and $2,300 per month has an impact on a small school district with a small budget. One can easily project the impact on larger, more demographically diverse districts across the state.

Schools will not “shut down” the lunch and healthy-food alternatives for children under our care and then use hungry kids as “photo ops.” We all take our responsibilities seriously. One would hope those at the federal level will do the same.

Bob McCarthy