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Plan to End 17-Year-Old School Meals Program

20111019-FNS-RBN-1646 - Flickr - USDAgovThe Universal Feeding Program, which is unique to Philadelphia, allows more than 120,000 students in 200 Philadelphia schools (where at least 72% of children are impoverished) to get free meals without having to fill out applications.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) said it wants Philadelphia to switch to a new program known as Provision 2 that would cost Philadelphia $1 million more annually in paperwork and likely deprive meals from thousands of students.

Officials in both New York City and Pittsburgh, where Provision 2 is in place, have faced significant problems. In both cities, it was difficult to get parents to fill out the paperwork (even though they must fill it out only once every 4 years), and when they did complete the papers, districts lacked the resources to verify its accuracy. The program became so confusing in New York that 300 schools were dropped from it in the fourth year, not because student need decreased but because parents either did not fill out the forms or were unaware that forms were required.

Advocates are calling for the Universal Feeding Program, a program that is less costly, less confusing, and reaches more children in need, to not only be continued in Philadelphia but to also be expanded to more areas of the country.

Please contact your federal representatives to let them know how important this program is to the children who are part of it.

Sample message to legislators: “The Universal Feeding Program provides nutritious food to low-income students, as it has for the past 17 years. Universal Feeding reduces the stigma attached to these meals while ensuring children have access to food during the school day. Please ensure this program remains available to our students and make it available to other students.” Please include your own story as well!

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