The Rob Peter to Pay Paul Act of 2010

For her swansong as an elected official, Blanche Lincoln has been doing important work shepherding a bill to improve child nutrion programs (mostly school lunch, but also WIC to some extent) through the torturous logic of the United States Senate. Unfortunately, said tortured logic has ended up saddling a very worthy bill with a troubling offset. Annie Lowrey explains:

The bill, controversially, is offset mostly with cuts from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, already cut to help pay for the state aid bill. Congress made SNAP benefits more generous in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the $787 billion Feb. 2009 stimulus bill. To pay for the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, the bill reduces some of the additional benefits, starting in a few years. Senate aides stressed that Democrats left the SNAP benefits requested in the Farm Bill untouched, and argued that tackling childhood hunger would reduce the strain on family food budgets and the SNAP program overall.

Basically we’re redistributing kids’ food assistance from dinner to lunch, and from summertime to non-summertime. Anti-poverty advocates tell me it’s definitely a good thing that the bill passed because this moves the process forward and allows for reconciliation with the House version of the bill that (no surprise) they like much better. As to whether on balance actually executing this SNAP for school lunch tradeoff would be a good thing, people seem divided (I think it’s probably good public health policy but bad economics) and mostly don’t want to take a strong position on it because they’re hoping to improve the bill before it reaches its final form.