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As food costs inflate, federal funding for child nutrition remains depressed

33-12130430812yrA12787431361636935689breadwhite-thI’ve been hearing that food prices are going up, but it really didn’t hit me until I had to buy bread the other day.

I’m always willing to spend a bit more for the nutty, crunchy, whole grain type, preferably organic. But at the Harris Teeter near my house I had to shell out at least $4 for a loaf for anything other than the white stuff you cut the crusts off of in elementary school.

One of NSBA’s main complaints about the Child Nutrition Act reauthorization last year was the lack of federal funding to meet the new requirements for more nutritious foods. While there was an increase for the costs of school lunches, that only covered a portion of the increased costs—about six cents per meal.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently estimated that the federal government’s contribution for the free and reduced price lunch program will come eight cents short of the increased cost (about 14 cents) of a more nutritious meal. And rising food costs will only exacerbate the problem for school district.

NSBA’s advocacy department did the math: If a school district has 5,000 students who qualify for FRPL, that’s $400 a day in extra expenses. Over the course of a typical 180-day school year, that’s $72,000—more than the cost of a teacher.

Last night the House of Representatives began debate on its agriculture appropriations bill. NSBA is supporting report language issued by the appropriations committee that directs the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to propose new rules that do not create unfunded mandates for school districts.

Without the needed funding, the law’s goals of proving more nutritious foods to all schoolchildren—particularly those who don’t get a good meal at home—will be just a “hollow promise,” NSBA wrote in a June 14 letter to the House.

The letter states, “School districts have already closed buildings, terminated programs and laid off teachers due to eroding local, state and federal resources.  Every dollar in unfunded mandates in the child nutrition reauthorization must come from somewhere else in the educational system and result in more layoffs, larger class sizes, narrowing of the curriculum, elimination of after-school programs, and cuts to other program areas, including school food services.”

Joetta Sack-Min, Associate Editor

Naomi Dillon|June 15th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Governance, Policy Formation|Tags: |

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