U.S. Department of Agriculture Announces $750 Million School Meals Program

by Michael Freeman

Schools across the country are facing problems now such as sudden closures, supplier issues, and insufficient funding. To help ease their burden, the United States Department of Agriculture announced a $750 million school meals program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture formally announced yesterday (Jan. 7) it would adjust federal reimbursement rates and send almost $750 million into school meal programs. This initiative came to be to combat both inflation and supply chain issues. This comes at a crucial time, as schools now consistently face food shortage issues, forcing them to order substitute meals.

“This adjustment is well-timed to ensure the purchasing power of schools keeps pace with the cost of living,” the USDA said in their 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.”

Specifically, the USDA said schools will receive an extra 25 cents per lunch. This helps counter high food costs and functions as a way to adjust to the reimbursement rate. These rates typically don’t increase during the school year, but the pandemic has made things anything but typical. Now, schools receive 22 percent more school lunches than they would normally.

This announcement comes after one made in December, where the organization allocated $1.5 billion to help struggling schools provide healthy lunches.

Tom Vilsack is the USDA’s Agriculture Secretary. He added his own comments to the organization’s official statement. “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,” Vilsack said.

Arizona Aims to Help Families Struggling with Unexpected School Closures by Giving up to $7,000

The USDA is far from the only institution recognizing COVID’s ghastly effects on our school system. For example, to help families struggling with unexpected school closures, Arizona announced awarding them up to $7,000.

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announced the program earlier this year, stating the $7,000 is to help with children’s educational needs. According to Fox News, this covers tutoring, childcare, school tuition, and transportation. However, keep in mind the Arizona Department of Economic Security must approve the request for financial assistance.

Corey DeAngelis, national director of research at School Choice Now, appeared on Fox News and voiced hopes other states would follow suit. “Every state should follow Arizona’s lead. If a Safeway doesn’t reopen, families can take their money elsewhere. If a school doesn’t reopen, families should be able to take their children’s education dollars elsewhere. In fact, families should be able to take their children’s education dollars elsewhere regardless. Education funding is meant for educating children, not for protecting a particular institution.”

Additionally, DeAngelis said awarding families this money gives them more flexibility with their children’s education. This provides multiple benefits, as it also encourages schools to do better, otherwise, they might pursue other avenues to accommodate educational needs.