U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) reportedly announced on Friday (December 17th) a $1.5 billion school meals program amid current supply chain issues.
According to NBC News, the funds for the school meals program will be made available through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation. The funds will be broken down into three parts. This is $1 billion for schools to purchase foods for their meal programs, another $300 million for states to purchase foods for distribution to schools, and an additional $200 million will be for cooperative agreements to purchase local foods for schools.
Speaking about the new program, Stacy Dean, Deputy Undersecretary at the USDA, tells the media outlet that the majority of the aid will be the $1 billion states. The funds are going towards purchasing domestic, unprocessed, or minimally processed foods. This includes fresh fruits, milk, cheese, canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables, rice, and more. “A big part of what we need to try to do is offer as much stability and predictability as possible in an incredibly uncertain time.”
Each state will allocate the funds to schools based on student enrollment. This includes a minimum amount per district to ensure that small schools are receiving funds as well. NBC News further reports that the Supply Chain Assistance Funds are expected to provide a “boost” in resources for up to 100,000 schools across all 50 states. It will also be for Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well.
With the New School Meal Program, Agriculture Department Announces Meal Services Waivers
Along with plans to launch the new meal program, the U.S. Agriculture Department also announced meal services waivers. These are “Seamless Summer Option.” NBC News states that the program is now available through June 2022.
The media outlet explains that each of the waivers allows for schools to offer meals free of charge to students. The USDA is also giving schools more “leeway” when it comes to meeting meal guidelines. The department is extending the nationwide waiver through the 2021-22 school year.
Also in a press release, Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, stated that the department’s school meal programs have a “wide-reaching” impact on the health and well-being of the nation’s children. Now, more than ever, America’s children need access to healthy and nutritious foods. Our school nutrition professionals play a huge role in making that happen.”
Meanwhile, Vilsack goes on to add that through the entire global pandemic, districts around the country have been met with extraordinary challenges to ensure that every child has the food needed to learn, grow, and thrive. “The foods and funds USDA is distributing will help ensure schools have the resources they need to continue to serve our nation’s schoolchildren quality food they can depend on. All while building a stronger, fairer, and more competitive food system.”