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Flint children to receive food aid to limit lead exposure

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Thousands of children in Flint are set to receive additional money for nutritional foods that can limit the effects of lead exposure, though families who recently left the Michigan city because of the lead-tainted water crisis won’t be eligible.

About $7 million in aid is going to about 15,000 children who qualify for food assistance, meaning qualifying families will receive a one-time payment of $420 per child to be used throughout the year. The funding is in addition to the $30 per child families got in March, the Detroit Free Press (http://on.freep.com/2r93CWh ) reported.

The city switched to untreated Flint River water as its drinking-water source in a money-saving effort in 2014, while under state management. But the move resulted in lead being leached from pipes into the water supply. Flint returned to Detroit’s water system in 2015.

To qualify for the new food assistance, residents must have lived in a ZIP code identified as being served by the city’s water system on Feb. 28, and still live in an eligible ZIP code as of April 1. Families who left the city because of the water to escape the lead won’t be eligible, regardless of whether their children suffer health effects.

Among the ineligible children is 4-year-old Sincere Smith, whose picture appeared on the cover of Time magazine to represent the water crisis in Flint.

“If I had moved to another state, I could understand being treated differently and everything, but moving just 15 minutes away, I feel like … it’s kind of unfair,” said his mother, Ariana Hawk. “I’m still within Genesee County.”

Hawk said that while living in the city, Sincere developed rough patches of skin on his legs, arms and face, after Flint switched its drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014. She believes all children impacted by the water crisis should be entitled to the same benefits, even if their families no longer live in the city or qualify for food-assistance benefits.

Bob Wheaton, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said the funds will be issued based on food assistance eligibility. He said that allows the department focus on families who are “the most in need.”

Department officials said the funding comes from federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grants.

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Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com

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