Monday, January 10, 2022

USDA boosts school meal reimbursement rate to help with inflation, supply-chain woes; will cost about $750 million

The Agriculture Department will spend another $750 million to help schools deal with the increased meal program costs brought on by inflation and supply-chain issues. "That’s an addition to the $1.5 billion in extra funding USDA recently directed out of the Commodity Credit Corporation," Ximena Bustillo reports for Politico's Weekly Agriculture. "It’s also on top of the higher than normal reimbursement rates schools have been receiving for much of the pandemic to help make things easier on their nutrition programs, which have been central in efforts to feed millions of kids as well as their families throughout the pandemic. Overall, USDA said schools are getting 22 percent more than they would normally."

The newly announced funds come in the form of a reimbursement rate adjustment; schools will get about 25 cents more per school lunch this year. "That might sound small, but it’s a big deal for school food operators struggling with increased costs, from food to labor and packaging, as well as upended supply chains," Bustillo reports,

Bill Lucia of Route Fifty reports: The "School Nutrition Association surveyed about 1,200 school nutrition directors between October and November about supply chain issues. Those findings, released [in December], 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.'"

SNA President Beth Wallace said in a statement that the $750 million "delivers desperately-needed relief to school meal programs" and that the organization "greatly appreciates USDA’s ongoing efforts to provide additional support for school nutrition professionals who are working so hard to ensure students continue to receive healthy meals at school," Bustillo reports.

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