RALEIGH — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service announced on May 5 that it will follow the interpretation of discrimination rules in Title IX previously laid out by the Biden administration.
“USDA is committed to administering all its programs with equity and fairness, and serving those in need with the highest dignity,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “A key step in advancing these principles is rooting out discrimination in any form – including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
In June of 2021, President Joe Biden’s Department of Education made good on his earlier executive order by reviving the Obama administration’s Title IX sexual and gender identity policies by issuing a Notice of Interpretation declaring their intention to enforce Title IX’s prohibition on sex-based discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
The USDA statement also said that any entity receiving Food Nutrition Service (FNS) funds would “must investigate allegations of discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.”
The statement went on to say, “Those organizations must also update their non-discrimination policies and signage to include prohibitions against discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.”
The Biden administration’s interpretation and the USDA actions could threaten the National School Lunch program, possibly leading to millions of low-income students going hungry if states do not comply.
The USDA’s announcement concerning the rule comes at a time when school meal prices are skyrocketing due to soaring inflation, delivery costs and some food items costs rising up to 40 percent, according to the school nutrition services department at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
Districts around the state have already raised meal prices with increases anywhere from ten cents to 25 cents. Durham Public Schools’ price increases have been the steepest, going from $2.90 to $3.75 per meal; an 85-cent increase.
To make matters worse, the federal program related to the pandemic that extended free meals to all students will expire June 30. A bill to extend the program was filed in the U.S. Senate but has stalled. POLITICO reports that Democrats appear to be trying to attach the meals extension to another COVID spending package that is “an extremely tall order considering the policy’s $11 billion price tag, which would roughly double the size of the COVID package the two parties are haggling over.”
The Biden administration’s rule opens the door for forced compliance through the threat of funding cuts for K-12 schools of any number of LGBT-backed policies such as boys on girls’ sports teams, use of opposite sex bathrooms and locker rooms, and students receiving federal student loans or Pell and FAFS grants could also likely be impacted.
Under former President Barack Obama’s Title IX guidance, not using a student’s preferred pronouns could be considered discrimination. The Biden administration’s interpretation does not seem to differ on that front and will likely reopen the debate of free speech versus compelled speech.
Gov. Roy Cooper’s office did not respond to North State Journal’s request for comment on this story.
North Carolina State Superintendent Catherine Truitt called the move that will impact millions of children “morally wrong.”
“Biden’s reckless spending has produced the highest inflation since Jimmy Carter. This hurts every American family and literally takes food off the dinner table,” Truitt said in response to a request for comment by North State Journal. “It is morally wrong for the Administration to use any child as a pawn in their culture wars.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and North Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, both Republicans, are already pushing back on Biden’s Title IX move according to statements made to the Washington Free Beacon.
“We will not allow Biden to force Floridians to choose between children’s food and parents’ rights,” DeSantis’s press secretary Christina Pushaw told the Washington Free Beacon. “That is the kind of ‘decision’ that a totalitarian regime would force upon its citizenry.”
Noem told the Free Beacon her state will take legal action and that “Joe Biden has threatened to take away children’s school lunch money to pursue his radical agenda. He’s targeting states like ours that make it clear biological men do NOT belong in girls’ bathrooms and sports. If you act on this, Joe, we’ll see you in court and we will win.”