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Nutrition programs still vital

Behind the unemployment statistics — between 16 million and 18 million Americans without jobs, many as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic — are the children. Millions of them are in homes where the coronavirus continues to make it difficult to put bread on the table.

Now is not the time to cut back on initiatives meant to help keep them fed.

As the economy began throttling back because of the epidemic, many public school districts shut down, too. To their eternal credit, officials in many of them seem to have determined their responsibility to children went beyond open classrooms. They kept preparing meals and finding ways to get the food to millions of families.

Other organizations, ranging from churches to social service groups, pitched in. Federal officials reacted by providing increased funding for school nutrition programs — and with grants to aid outside organizations helping with the initiative.

There are reports the U.S. Department of Agriculture may discontinue that aid to locations other than schools. Another potential change is discontinuing funding, perhaps for schools, too, that had been used to prepare and deliver meals to children during weekends.

Schools may be reopening, and many children will be able to eat nutritious breakfasts and lunches there. But a significant number of parents are fearful of sending sons and daughters back to school and have opted for “distance learning” online.

Are those homebound children in low-income families any less hungry? Do children’s stomachs somehow feel fuller on Saturdays and Sundays?

The COVID-19 epidemic is far from over in the United States. There may be some logic in discussing how much aid government can continue to provide to adults — but how on earth can we take any chances with the children? Better safe than sorry with them.

Federally funded intiatives to ensure the youngsters are fed should continue as they have been until there is no doubt about the need having gone away.

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