The President’s Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget includes several harmful budget cuts and policy proposals that would drastically undermine food assistance programs that serve children. If enacted, these changes would be devastating for children struggling with poverty and food insecurity. In all, the various cuts in the President’s FY21 budget proposal for the Department of Agriculture would exacerbate the ongoing crisis of child food insecurity in the United States. Here is how the proposed budget would make it harder for struggling families to put food on the table:

Proposes Deep Cuts and Radical Restructuring of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Each year, SNAP helps millions of low-income households afford nutritious food. It is the largest federal nutrition program, with children comprising nearly half of all participants. Monthly SNAP benefits are already thought to be inadequate to mitigate the effects of food insecurity on participating children. However, rather than strengthening the program and ensuring it reaches more children, the FY21 budget proposal seeks deep cuts to SNAP. The President proposes cutting SNAP by $15 billion in FY21, with cuts totaling $182 billion over the next ten years. Many of the policy proposals that account for these staggering cuts would harm children, including:

Replacing electronic benefits with direct USDA food packages called “Harvest Boxes”

The President’s Budget once again proposes to reduce SNAP benefits in exchange for a food box (lacking fresh produce or meat) for households receiving more than $90 per month. This “Harvest Box” proposal would disproportionately impact the 9.2 million SNAP households with children, as their benefits tend to be the highest on average. The proposal would also seriously undermine the nutritional value of foods that children receive through SNAP by replacing a family’s regular channels of buying food with nutritionally compromised food boxes. This proposal alone would cut SNAP spending by $121.4 billion over the next decade.

Expanding harmful SNAP time limits for unemployed and underemployed individuals

The FY21 budget request revives a policy proposal that would subject additional vulnerable adults to SNAP time limits if they struggle to access or document a certain number of work hours. Such policies targeting so-called “adults without dependents” would have unintended consequences for low-income children who rely on extended family or non-custodial parents for financial support and create additional barriers to food assistance for former foster youth and unaccompanied homeless youth.

Capping SNAP benefits for large families

The administration proposes setting an arbitrary limit on SNAP benefits for large families, setting the maximum limit at six family members. This would inherently disadvantage families with children, especially those with multiple children.

Eliminating valuable nutrition education (SNAP-ED)

The President’s budget also seeks to eliminate funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Nutrition Education (SNAP-ED), which provides critical programming that supports policy, system, and environmental changes that promote healthier food choices and physical activity amongst participants. This evidence-based program has been associated with healthier eating amongst low-income elementary school-aged children.

Eliminating state option of coordinating between SNAP and low-income home energy program payments

The administration seeks $8.2 billion in SNAP cuts over the next decade that would make it harder for people struggling to pay for both heating and proper nutrition by eliminating the state option of coordinating between SNAP and low-income home energy program payments.

Proposes Cutting Child Nutrition Programs by $1.7 Billion Over Ten Years Through Harmful Policy Changes

The administration proposes cutting the Child Nutrition Program by about $1.7 billion over the next decade by reducing the number of schools eligible to implement the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) and making changes to the verification process for school meal applications.

Increased Funding for Mandatory Child Nutrition Programs in FY21

Under the proposal, mandatory child nutrition programs would receive increased funding in FY21. Most of these spending increases are due to increased anticipated participation, however, and not a concerted investment by the administration. Together, these programs, such as the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, provide millions of children with vital, nutritious meals that may often be the only source of consistent meals for low-income students. The Summer Food Service Program ensures that these students have access to nutritious meals year-round. FY21 funding levels for mandatory child nutrition programs are as follows:

  • Child and Adult Care Food Program: Would receive $4 billion in FY21, an increase of $179.4 million over FY20 levels
  • National School Lunch Program: Would receive $13.5 billion in FY21, an increase of $1 billion over FY20 levels
  • School Breakfast Program: Would receive $5 billion in FY21, an increase of $207.7 million over FY20 levels
  • Summer Food Service Program: Would receive $551.9 million in FY21, an increase of $25.6 million over FY20 levels

A Proposed Decrease in Funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Due to Lower Projected Caseload

The President’s budget request calls for a reduction in federal resources for WIC, with an overall budget authority of $5.5 billion, which is a $500 million cut from the FY20 enacted level. The President’s budget also proposes cutting the set-aside for breastfeeding peer counselors to $60 million, a $30 million reduction from the FY20 enacted level. WIC provides nutrition services to mothers, infants, and children during crucial periods of development such as pregnancy, birth, infancy, and early childhood. WIC has proven to improve developmental outcomes for participating children through improved infant feeding practices and healthier diets for children and mothers.