USDA Boosts School Lunch Funding By $750 Million To Counter Higher Food Prices

By Mason Bissada, Forbes Staff

Topline

 The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday announced a $750 million increase in funding for school meal programs, citing the disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic and higher food costs. 

West Reading, PA - March 17: Myah Abeloff, 8, holds a packed lunch and breakfast as the Wyomissing Area School District handed out lunches (and breakfasts) for the first time Tuesday. (Photo by Lauren A. Little/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images) MediaNews Group via Getty Images

Key Facts

USDA is raising reimbursement for school lunches by 25 cents apiece–combined with a 15% increase at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year through the decision to reimburse schools at the same rate as for the Summer Food Service Program, it totals out to a 22% hike in funding, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a release.

The USDA announced a $1.5 billion program in September to bolster school nutrition programs amid supply chain disruptions.

Funding rates are not normally adjusted for inflation mid-school year, but the USDA said the adjustment was necessary to “keep pace with food and operational costs.”

Key Background

 Food prices were up 6.1% in November compared to the same month a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with beef prices up 20.1% and pork up 14.1%, causing the Biden administration to accuse the larger meat processing companies of taking advantage of pandemic-related supply chain disruptions. On Monday, to increase competition, the White House announced it will allocate $1 billion to support independent meat and poultry producers, including grant aid, capital funding and training subsidies. Four companies—Cargill, Tyson, JBS SA and National Beef Packing Co.—control 70% of total U.S. beef production, according to the North American Meat Institute.

Big Number

98%. That's the percentage of schools that reported dealing with shortages of food and packaging, according to a survey conducted by the School Nutrition Association, which queried 1,212 school meal program directors.

Tangent

Consumers’ grocery bill costs increased by 22% since pandemic began, a recent study found.


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