'It's just so disappointing': Food stamp changes put local students at risk

Half-million students could lose free meals due to food stamp changes

RADFORD, Va. – Hundreds of thousands of children are at risk of losing access to the free lunch program.

In a letter to the Department of Agriculture, U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, of Virginia, said proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will also affect children's eligibility for school meal programs. More than 500,000 low-income children could lose free lunch.

"I’ll tell you, that's the first I’ve heard of it and it's just so disappointing," said Rob Graham, superintendent for Radford City Schools.

The possibility is alarming for many school districts, including Radford City Schools.

"I think that that would be just extremely detrimental to our students and to our community, to be real honest," Graham said.

Graham said that when he was the principal at McHarg Elementary School in 2006, he said about 23% of students qualified for free or reduced lunch. Now, it's close to 60%. About 50% qualify in the district overall.

Radford is certainly not alone. Because of high poverty levels, every student in all but two Roanoke city schools gets free lunch. Similar programs exist in Danville and Lynchburg.

"Taking food away from them is a hindrance to their learning," Graham said. "Our children, as cliché as it is, they are our future and we want them to have as much chance for success as possible."

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