July 28, 2022

Low-Income Kids at Risk of Losing School Lunches Thanks to Biden Admin Mandate

By
Alliance Defending Freedom
Schools

For children from low-income families and underprivileged neighborhoods, lunch at school may be the most nutritious meal they eat all day.

Thankfully, there are federal programs in place to ensure that these kids can access breakfast, lunch, and a snack at school, no matter which school they attend.

One school that has received such federal assistance is Grant Park Christian Academy in Tampa, Florida.

But now that the Biden administration is redefining Title IX, the children’s ability to receive their lunches may be in jeopardy. Read more about the case below.

Who are the children of Grant Park Christian Academy?

Grant Park Christian Academy empowers families and the community to develop each child’s individual and unique gifts through academics and a strong foundation in Christ Jesus, which brings honor and glory to God. Students receive daily instruction in biblical teaching and attend weekly chapel services.

Grant Park Christian Academy also serves an underprivileged community. In fact, every student at the school comes from a low-income family. Many of the kids come from single-parent homes.

For these children and their families, federal and state assistance is critical for the education and nourishment of their children.

That’s where the school lunches come in.

All the families at Grant Park Christian Academy fall under the federal poverty threshold for receiving free meals at school. And thanks to the school’s participation in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program, their children can benefit from nutritious meals at school.

At least, they can right now.

If the Biden administration and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried have their way, these kids may no longer be able to receive those meals.

Grant Park Christian Academy v. Fried

Ever since it first applied for the National School Lunch Program in 2017, Grant Park Christian Academy has received USDA funding for school meals. And that’s a big deal. Without that funding, Grant Park would not be able to cover meals for its students.

When schools participate in the school lunch program, they are subject to Title IX, which means their programs and activities cannot discriminate against people on the basis of sex.

So the question is: what is sex?

While the answer should be clear, the Biden administration has sought to redefine sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Grant Park Christian Academy treats every student with dignity and respect, no matter what. But the school cannot abandon its religious beliefs about human sexuality – that God made us male and female. Furthermore, as a religious institution that adheres to these traditional Christian beliefs, the school is exempt from Title IX.

So, Grant Park Christian Academy contacted the office of Nikki Fried, Florida’s commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, who is responsible for administering the National School Lunch Program at the state level.

After a series of emails with Commissioner Fried’s office asking about its exemption, the school received a message that “participating schools must comply with all federal program regulations.” The only other option offered was to leave the program.

The meaning behind that message was clear: to receive federal funding, Grant Park Christian Academy had to comply with all federal regulations in the National School Lunch Program—and that Commissioner Fried was not recognizing any exemption.

Grant Park Christian Academy had no choice but to file a lawsuit against Fried.

What's at stake?

The government cannot force a religious institution to abandon its deeply held beliefs. That violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

More to the point, if the USDA does not speedily approve Grant Park Christian Academy’s request for an exemption, dozens of children will be deprived of their school lunches. And the school may even face having to close its doors to the needy children in its community.

President Biden and Commissioner Fried’s push to redefine sex in federal law has now reached the point where they will deny school lunches to underprivileged students, just because their school will not violate its religious beliefs.

Case timeline

  • May 2022: The USDA issued a “policy update” redefining sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity, in accordance with an executive order from President Joe Biden.
  • July 2022: Grant Park Christian Academy was notified by a Florida official that it “must comply with all federal regulations in the National School Lunch Program.”

The bottom line

The Biden administration is punishing low-income children because they attend Christian schools.

My school receives USDA funds. What can I do about it?

  • If your Christian church or ministry receive USDA funds for any program, including the school lunch program, contact us for assistance with your legal options, including the religious exemption application process.
  • If you receive another type of USDA funding, please reach out for an individual assessment. Other programs, such as SNAP, lack any stated religious exemptions.

You can contact us directly by visiting https://adflegal.org/request-legal-help and filling out the short form.

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