Democrats on the top committee are urging McMaster to reconsider move to deny federal money to feed disadvantaged children

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South Carolina Democrats call Gov. Henry McMaster To reconsider the decision not to accept federal funds to help feed children from low-income families during the summer.

Disadvantaged children in South Carolina routinely eat school meals during the school year, as their families are unable to provide adequate resources for food, especially during summer vacation. While the federal program would help alleviate the hunger gap by providing each eligible child $120 each summer for food, McMaster recently rejected the offer.

Now, Democrats in the South Carolina House and Senate are calling on McMaster to reconsider his position.

“We are looking at the politicization of feeding hungry children,” said state Sen. Mike Flaning, D-Fairfield. “Let me be clear that your federal tax dollars will be used to feed hungry children. The only question is, will your federal tax dollars feed hungry children in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles? Or will your federal tax dollars be used to feed hungry children here in South Carolina? Today, we stand united behind the hungry children of South Carolina.”

When asked about his decision to forgo federal funds for the program, McMaster sidestepped the issue.

“That was an added benefit related to COVID-19,” McMaster said during a recent press conference. “We have to get back to normal business, we can’t do this forever.”

The program, which is facilitated through the US Department of Agriculture, aims to provide sustainable food during the summer for children in need. The initiative, called the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer, has been accepted by 35 other states, all five U.S. territories and four Indian tribes.

It is a plan launched with bipartisan support in Congress, and presents a vision for the Biden-Harris administration to enhance food and nutrition security, while improving food access and affordability.

Food insecurity in South Carolina is higher than the national average, according to USDA data. “More than 20% of children in the state live in food-insecure homes, which means there is not enough food for everyone in the family to live a healthy life,” according to researchers at the University of South Carolina.

“Food insecurity is a real problem in South Carolina,” said State Rep. Wendell Jones, D-Greenville. “We’re outpacing the national average by about 300 basis points. That means there are real families who are concerned about being able to feed themselves every night. These are the same families that we rely on to continue to produce this economy that we brag about. I’ll tell you what’s hard about that.” You’re a productive worker when you’re concerned about whether your kids are eating.

While McMaster opted to leave South Carolina out of the program, lawmakers are urging him to reconsider his position.

“We have people standing up today asking our governor to change his mind and do what the Bible tells us to do, which is feed our children,” Fanning said.

Fanning, who serves on the Senate Budget Committee, said that despite McMaster’s move, he plans to push for funding of the initiative through the state budget, stressing nonetheless that “not a dime of state money is needed to feed these children.”

The USDA offers a wealth of resources, including training for those who choose the program, with 2024 marking the start of the initiative.

“No child should spend their summer hungry, or without nutritious food,” Deputy Agriculture Minister Torres Small said at a press conference. Press release last week. “The Summer EBT program is a giant step forward in meeting the needs of our nation’s children and families year-round, especially in the summer months.”

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