A new Esquire profile of Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) details the Senate candidate’s hard-scrabble childhood on an Arizona cattle ranch — where he was sustained by federal school lunch programs he has repeatedly tried to hobble as a Congressman.
Flake’s elder brother, Scott, explained to Esquire how they benefited from entitlement programs meant to provide nutrition for children from low-income families:
It didn’t feel like we were poor, but we always qualified for free school lunch and those kinds of things. I guess it was just a function of having so many kids. They made enough money raising cattle to raise big families very efficiently, carefully. But they didn’t have enough money to send anybody off to college. If you wanted to go to college, it was encouraged and good luck to you, but you had to figure out how to do it.
Though Flake was a direct beneficiary of the federal school lunch program, he’s refused to support these free school lunches for other children. Flake has regularly been one of a few hard-line conservatives to vote against child nutrition and school lunch programs in Congress. In 2004, Flake and just 4 other members of Congress voted against reauthorizing funding for child nutrition programs. He has also steadfastly opposed even recognizing the importance of school lunch programs over the years, voting against Congressional resolutions celebrating the School Breakfast Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which provides food assistance in daycare for low-income families. Most recently, he refused to express support for “the goals and ideals of the National School Lunch Program.” Each time, he was joined by around 10 other members in opposing the overwhelmingly popular programs.
There are around 48.8 million people currently living in food insecure households like the Flake family. 20 million children take advantage of free and reduced lunches every day.