State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today sent a letter to the federal Department of Homeland Security opposing efforts to deny immigrants permanent residency or visas if their households benefit from aid programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Medicaid.
In California, an estimated one million students are living with one parent or guardian who is undocumented. And there are many more students with parents on visas or as permanent residents who could be impacted by such changes as well.
“I strongly oppose efforts that will reduce the number of children that are eligible to receive free and reduced-price meals in schools,” said Torlakson, who was a high school science teacher and coach. “This damaging proposal would cause serious harm to our nation’s children. “Children need to come to school healthy and well-nourished so they are prepared to learn. As educators we have an obligation to protect the health and well-being of all children and students—including those who come from immigrant families.”
Families driven by fear will not access child nutrition programs, and more children will come to school hungry, the letter states. Hungry children are less able to learn and are more likely to miss school due to illness. Nutrition programs such as SNAP, TANF, and Medicaid are essential in assisting low-income families that struggle with food insecurity to help their children reach their full potential.
“It’s imperative that the health and well-being of children are kept foremost in mind when developing regulations that have far-reaching effects on the nation’s children,” Torlakson added.
Currently, California directly certifies 2,661,974 children to receive free and reduced-price NSLP and SBP meals through the automated direct certification process, which includes households participating in SNAP, TANF, and Medicaid programs. Children living in households that choose not to participate in SNAP, TANF, or Medicaid, for fear of impacting their immigration status, will not automatically qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, and many will not complete the income-based household meal application, resulting in the neediest children not meeting the minimum dietary requirements.
Learn more about California’s nutrition assistance programs on the CDE Nutrition web page. Copies of the letter are available upon request.