School officials fear federal cuts to meal programs

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Last week the White House’s Budget Director Mick Mulvaney questioned the importance of federal free meals for school children.

“They’re supposed to help kids who don’t get fed at home get fed, so they do better in school … Guess what. There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually doing that,” Mulvaney said at the time. “There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually helping results, helping kids do better in school.”

The White House Budget Director’s statement worries Richmond school principal Sonya Shaw. Shaw serves as the head administrator at Miles Jerome Jones Elementary School.

“We have students who have endured going home at night and not having any meals to eat until they come back to school, so it is very important for their academic success to have a meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Shaw said. “Once they have consumed their meal, they are ready, they are focused, they have energy for the day.”

Richmond Public Schools’ School Nutrition Director Susan Roberson said she wished federal officials would visit homes and schools before making statements about the importance of meal programs.

We have students who have endured going home at night and not having any meals to eat until they come back to school, so it is very important for their academic success to have a meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Shaw said.

“The first thing that crossed my mind was have they been to the school?” Roberson said. “Or been to the families to ask them if any of these programs are helping them? And have they been to the schools to see how students are more focused?” Roberson said.

Every child in the RPS system is eligible for free lunch. The school system even supplies some children’s families with food for the weekend and summer months.

“There’s no school on weekends but children do need to eat on weekends,” Roberson said. “So we have a backpack program as part of the 365 project where students will receive food for three days to help them eat over the weekends.”

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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