Ministry provides another nearly $1 billion food boost to schools
WASHINGTON – The Biden administration announced today that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide nearly $1 billion in additional funding to schools to support the purchase of American-grown foods for their meal programs. The department also applauds the president’s recent signing of the Keep Kids Fed Act, which equips schools, summer meal sites and child care food programs with additional resources so they can continue to serving children throughout the 2022-2023 school year. These two actions are a response to significant challenges that operators of infant nutrition programs continue to face, such as high food costs and supply chain disruptions.
“The Biden administration knows that the ongoing impacts of supply chain issues and rising food costs continue to be a challenge for many schools and child nutrition operators, and we are grateful to Congress for taking action to ease some of their burdens,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. . “From our end, this funding increase is another step the administration is taking to ensure that every child who needs a meal gets one. Regardless of the circumstances, the USDA and all of our partners must continue to work together to provide our youth with the healthy meals they rely on.
The department’s $943 million increase is provided by the USDA Commodity Credit Company. The funds will be distributed by state agencies to schools across the country, so they can purchase locally grown foods for their lunch programs. This assistance builds on the $1 billion in supply chain assistance funds the USDA previously allocated in December 2021, which states can use this school year as well as next to provide schools with a financing for the purchase of basic products.
The Keep Kids Fed Act will also provide assistance to program operators across the country by:
- Extend national flexibilities to summer meal programs through September 2022, including allowing venues to continue to serve meals across all areas at no cost to families;
- Offer schools an additional temporary reimbursement of 40 cents per lunch and 15 cents per breakfast, and daycares an additional reimbursement of 10 cents per meal;
- Provide all family child care homes with the higher temporary reimbursement rate for the 2022-23 school year;
- Provide USDA with additional flexibilities to support schools, as needed, based on their local conditions.
This new authorization does not allow all students to eat for free during the 2022-2023 school year. Nonetheless, the ministry will continue to offer other program flexibilities under its current authority, such as:
- Equip schools and program operators to quickly respond to health-related safety issues by providing take-out and/or take-out meals for parents; and
- Extending the deadlines for districts to participate in the Community Eligibility Provision, which allows schools serving many needy students to provide all meals free of charge without collecting applications from families.
For next school year, in most school districts, families will need to complete an application through their school to determine if their household is eligible for free or reduced-price school meals, as it was. before the pandemic. The USDA also supports the expansion of direct certification, which uses existing data to certify children for free or reduced-price meals without an additional application. All states are required to directly certify students for free meals if their household receives SNAP benefits, and some states also directly certify free and reduced-price meals based on participation in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the food distribution program on Indian reservations or Medicaid. . States interested in participating in the Medicaid Direct Certification Demonstration Project are invited to respond to this application requestwhich ends September 30, 2022. In the 2019-2020 school year, 1.4 million students received free and reduced-price meals through direct certification through Medicaid.
“USDA is working alongside our partners in child nutrition to help them provide vital, nutritious meals to tens of millions of children every school day,” said Stacy Dean, assistant assistant secretary at the food, nutrition and consumer services. “There is a long way to go, but the additional support and funding for our operators will help them continue to serve our children well. We can – and will – overcome these challenges together.
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The USDA touches the lives of all Americans every day. Currently, the USDA is dedicated to transforming the US food system with a greater emphasis on more resilient local and regional food production, ensuring access to safe and nutritious food in all communities, creating new markets and new revenue streams for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in clean energy infrastructure and capacity in rural America, and committing to equity across the USDA by removing systemic barriers and creating a more representative workforce of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.