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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.

Go deeper

Jan 15, 2022 - Health

Students across U.S. walkout of classes to demand safer COVID protocols

Public school students protest outside of the Chicago Public Schools headquarters after walking out of their classrooms on Jan. 14 in Chicago. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Students in Boston and Chicago walked out of classes on Friday in protest, demanding a return to remote learning as the Omicron variant surges across the country.

Driving the news: The walkouts come two days after 340,000 Chicago students returned to the classroom after a five-day work stoppage due to the Chicago Teachers Union asking for tougher COVID-19 restrictions.

45 million Americans under winter storm watches near New England

Computer model projection showing the winds moving around the powerful East Coast storm on Saturday Jan. 29, 2022. Image: https://earth.nullschool.net

Nearly 45 million Americans are under winter weather alerts and warnings from North Carolina to northeastern Maine Thursday night, as a major winter storm threatens the region.

Why it matters: It is predicted to be the biggest blizzard since 2018 to strike the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow possible in parts of eastern Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.