Jan 8, 2022 - Economy & Business

USDA to send $750 million to school meals to counter supply chain issues

Pat Teague, executive chef of the Burlington School District, works the lunch counter at the Michael Kors Cafe, located at Burlington High School's new campus in Burlington, VT on March 16, 2021.

Photo: Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday that it would adjust federal reimbursement rates and send nearly $750 million into school meal programs across the U.S. to counter inflation and supply chain issues.

Why it matters: Schools across the country have been challenged by food and supply shortages, leaving them scrambling to place orders for substitute meals, according to a survey from the School Nutrition Association.

  • "This adjustment is well-timed to ensure the purchasing power of schools keeps pace with the cost of living," the USDA said in a statement.
  • "Schools receiving these reimbursement rates can stretch their operating budgets further during these tough times, while giving families fewer meal expenses to worry about each school day."

Details: The USDA said that schools will receive an additional 25 cents per lunch to counter higher food costs and as a way to adjust the reimbursement rate.

  • Reimbursement rates don't usually increase during the academic year, but, due to the pandemic, the USDA allowed schools to benefit from the highest rates available. Schools are now receiving 22% more for school lunches than they would under normal conditions.
  • In September, the USDA sent $1.5 billion to help schools struggling to serve students healthy lunches.

What they're saying: “USDA understands that balancing the pressures of the pandemic with the need to feed children healthy and nutritious meals continue to be a priority for schools across the country,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.

  • "School nutrition professionals continue to ensure healthy meals are available for students, but perpetually difficult conditions have forced many last-minute menu changes and limited the number of choices in school cafeterias," said Beth Wallace, president of the School Nutrition Association, in a statement.
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