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Federal judge blocks directive threatening school lunches

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A federal judge in Tennessee has issued a preliminary injunction blocking a Biden administration directive that would prevent schools from receiving federal U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funds for student feeding/nutrition programs unless transitioning, questioning or transgender students are able to use bathrooms of the opposite sex that were originally marked for use specifically by biological boys or girls.

Beginning in 2018-2019, the Hernando County School District received roughly $10.8 million for free breakfast and lunch for all students through the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) program. The directive would threaten that annual funding.

U.S. District Judge Charles Atchley Jr. the Eastern District of Tennessee issued the injunction on grounds that the directive infringes on states’ rights to enact laws that require schools and businesses to provide bathrooms and showers to transgender people.

Last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis called the bathroom policy “Intentionally destructive.”

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“Trying to deny school lunch programs in states that don’t do transgender ideologies in the schools?” DeSantis asked in response to the directive during a press conference near Orlando. “Give me a break.”

According to Karen Jordan, Public Information Officer for the Hernando County School District, during the 2021-2022 school year, district schools served more than 279,000 after-school snacks/suppers, more than 1,230,000 breakfasts, and more than 2,598,000 lunches for a total of more than 4,107,000 meals altogether. During the summer of 2021, the district served 29,958 breakfasts and 34,133 lunches for a total of 64,091 meals, she said.

DeSantis’ Press Secretary Christina Pushaw said that threatening to withhold funding for school nutrition programs is “beyond the pale.”

“As the governor said, we will defend our laws that protect kids and parental rights,” Pushaw said in a written statement. “The Biden Administration is free to express disagreement with Florida’s common-sense laws, but threatening to take away school lunches from children is beyond the pale.”

Whether the Biden administration will appeal Atchley’s ruling is uncertain.

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