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May 29, 2009

The Fight to Save Universal Feeding

The outcry over the USDA's announced end to Philly's excellent Universal Feeding program--a program that automatically enrolls poor children in the federal free school meal program and which I wrote about the other day--is getting louder. And the ironies are coming faster, as well. From today's Inquirer:

Sen. Arlen Specter and Gov. Rendell are protesting the U.S. Department of Agriculture's decision to end Universal Feeding here - a program wanted by New York and Los Angeles - and go with a plan that would cost the district $1 million more annually in paperwork and likely deprive meals to thousands of children.

Along with scrapping Universal Feeding, hailed as a success, the USDA wants Philadelphia to adopt the federal plan used in New York City, which school officials there say is unworkable.

"I do not understand this," Specter (D., Pa.) said in an interview this week. "You'd think it'd be pretty hard to be against motherhood, milk, and children."

This is the kind of bureaucracy we thought we'd left behind. Out of a misplaced sense of justice -- the embarrassing Janey Thornton, head of the Federal Nutrition Service, has said the program "isn't fair" -- the USDA insists on canceling a successful program to replace it with an unworkable, more expensive one that will feed fewer kids. Shameful stuff.

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