The U.S. House of Representatives began debate on its agriculture appropriations bill yesterday. 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.
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 USDA 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.
NSBA’s advocacy department is also concerned that rising food costs will exacerbate the problem. Currently, if a school district has 5,000 students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, that’s $400 a day in extra expenses. Over the course of a typical 180-day school year, that’s $72,000 — more than an average teacher’s salary.
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.”
Read the letter here.