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Rally Supports School Lunches

The message on buttons and banners and booming over loudspeakers was: “Pick on Someone Your Own Size.”

But the intended audience at the Capitol - the Republican congressional leadership - was on this day of rest absent from the building it has dominated since January.

The rally on the west steps of the Capitol on Sunday was aimed at proposed Republican legislation that sharply would cut money for school lunch programs. The messengers were hundreds of children from the District of Columbia and four nearby states, together with leading Democratic lawmakers and a coalition of 81 children’s advocacy groups. The crowd numbered about 1,500.

Speakers young and old protested that a Republican bill due for a vote in the House this week would slash $7 billion over the next five years in federal financing for school nutrition programs.

“Children have to say no to a lot of things,” remarked Toussaint Tingling-Clemons, a 10-year-old. “Food should not be one of them.”

People attending the rally carried hand-painted placards saying “Make Lunch, Not War” and “Save Our Snacks.” Colorful posters declared that according to a Congressional Budget Office study, 2,218,950 children nationwide would be deprived of free meals if the cuts go through.

The noontime program was organized by Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, the House Democratic leader, and other Democratic lawmakers in conjunction with advocacy groups.