Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Biden administration will provide up to $1.5 billion to mitigate disruptions to schools' food supply chains

"The Biden administration will provide up to $1.5 billion to states and schools to help them deal with costs driven by supply chain disruptions, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Friday. School lunch operators are grappling with both goods shortages and rising costs as the nation contends with broader supply chain and inflation difficulties," Bill Lucia reports for Route Fifty. "Under the newly announced initiatives, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will funnel $1 billion for schools to purchase food for their meal programs and another $300 million for food that states will distribute to schools. The $1 billion will be distributed as cash payments known as Supply Chain Assistance funds. USDA said it anticipates that money going to as many as 100,000 schools in all 50 states." The administration will provide another $200 million for schools to buy local foods from farmers, especially historically underserved producers. 

Schools, and the state and local governments that fund them, have been hammered by rising costs and shortages. "A School Nutrition Association surveyed about 1,200 school nutrition directors between October and November about supply chain issues," Lucia reports. "Those findings, released this month, showed that top challenges school lunch programs faced—cited by over 98% of respondents—included shortages or insufficient quantities of menu items, other supplies or packaging, as well as discontinued menu items. Over three-quarters of respondents said those challenges were 'significant.'"

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