Who’s Weaponizing?

The following is a letter to the editor from Ken Chestek, HD13 which appeared in several newspapers around the state recently. -ed

Note: The following came in from a Wyoming Democrat. While we attempt to share work that reflects the WDP platform, you may come across some words that are not exactly what WDP would have written. Perhaps you will agree with what you read below, perhaps not. Your mileage may vary.

The Wyoming Department of Education, with major funding from the federal government, runs a school lunch program for Wyoming children. During the pandemic, we learned that when schools were closed, many children on free and reduced lunches lost access to the nutrition they needed to thrive.

The United States Department of Agriculture is covering the nutrition gap that happens during summer. The Summer EBT (for “Electronic Benefit Transfer”) Program is designed to provide each child in need with $40 per month (distributed through an electronic payment system) to help offset the cost of summertime meals. Thirty-five states have willingly partnered to provide this assistance — but not Wyoming. Wyoming Superintendent of Public Education Megan Degenfelder explained why. She said that she “will not let the Biden administration weaponize summer school lunch.”

Excuse me? In what universe is providing food to hungry kids a “weapon?”

Food insecurity in Wyoming is real, and growing. According to Wyoming First Lady Jennie Gordon’s Wyoming Hunger Initiative, 86,000 Wyoming residents struggle with food insecurity. Natrona County School District No. 1 reports that 28% of their enrolled students are food insecure. The Food Bank of Wyoming says that Wyoming is the “10th most food-insecure state in the nation.”

If you want to find out what Democrats believe, ask a Democrat. We want a country where hard-working families are paid a living wage sufficient to proudly make their own way in the world. We also know, however, that families sometimes need a hand up to get back on their feet.

The total cost of the Summer EBT program for Wyoming is estimated to be $3.8 million, a drop in the bucket toward the $38 million need identified by FeedingAmerica. Only $1.9 million of amount would be paid by the State of Wyoming, a tiny fraction of the $530 million Gov. Mark Gordon proposed to put into savings this year. Hungry children would surely notice a big difference if we choose to help feed them this summer.

The way to respond to childhood food insecurity is to feed the children, not to deprive them of food to make a political point.

–Ken Chestek, HD13