To ensure kids are ready to learn and engage, they need regular access to nutritious meals.
Often, this responsibility falls on school districts. Did you know that hunger affects approximately one in six children in New York State? As your district is likely experiencing, the ongoing supply chain disruption brought on by the pandemic has created a multitude of additional obstacles to navigate in the quest for providing consistent, healthy food options for students. Help is on the way thanks to the USDA in the form of federal funding, and your school district may receive financial relief before the end of the month.
School meal programs have always operated on extremely tight budgets, and pandemic school closures and financial losses left many programs on shaky ground. The School Nutrition Association (SNA) 2021 Supply Chain Survey results found over 98% of programs report shortages of menu items, supplies, and packaging, as well as menu items being discontinued by their manufacturers. The additional work replacing and finding new items as well as securing alternative vendors is taking a toll on school nutrition staff, and nearly all respondents (95%) indicated staff shortages. Severe supply chain and staffing challenges add to financial difficulties for school meal programs, with virtually all respondents (97%) reporting higher costs, compared to contracted bids.
At the end of December, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the Biden-Harris Administration is providing up to $1.5 billion to states and school districts to help school meal program operators deal with the challenges of supply chain disruptions brought on by the pandemic.
How much will New York State receive?
Below, we break down the numbers and take a deeper dive into how the funding will be distributed. New York State will receive:
- $88,094,032 total
- $59,455,807 of the $1 billion in Supply Chain Assistance funds
- $16,747,064 for USDA foods purchases
- $11,891,161 for local food for schools cooperative agreement in NY State
With funding made available through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation, USDA will provide $1 billion for schools to purchase food for their meal programs through cash payments – known as Supply Chain Assistance funds. In total, the Supply Chain Assistance Funds are expected to provide a boost in resources for up to 100,000 schools across all 50 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, including public, tribal, charter schools, and nonprofit private schools.
How can the Supply Chain Assistance funding be used?
Supply Chain Assistance funding can be used by school districts to purchase unprocessed and minimally processed domestic food such as fresh fruit, milk, cheese, frozen vegetables, and ground meat. Each state will allocate the funds to schools based on student enrollment, with a minimum amount per district to ensure that small schools aren’t left behind. To strengthen local food supply chains, states have the option of using up to 10% of the Supply Chain Assistance funds to make bulk purchases of local food and then distributing these foods to schools for use in their meal programs. States also have the option of targeting the funds to areas of highest need by limiting distribution to school districts where a quarter or more of students are from low-income households.
Through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)’s new Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program, USDA will award up to an additional $200 million to states for food assistance purchases of domestic local foods for distribution to schools. This program will strengthen the food system for schools by helping to build a fair, competitive, and resilient local food chain and expanding local and regional markets with an emphasis on purchasing from historically underserved producers and processors.
USDA will also purchase about $300 million in 100-percent domestically grown and produced food products, for states to distribute to schools to offset the impact of disruptions to their normal supply chains. States will be able to order these additional foods within the coming weeks, with deliveries to occur as soon as possible.
The School Nutrition Association said the funds will help schools manage higher costs and provide students with more American-grown food. We hope this development comes as welcome financial relief to your school district and helps to alleviate some of the financial and logistical burdens the continued supply chain issues have caused. Questions about the rollout of the funding, or want to set up a personalized conversation about your district’s needs? Feel free to contact our dedicated team of professionals at RBT who specialize in helping government clients. We look forward to providing you with personalized services and answering industry-specific questions.
Sources: USDA, School Nutrition, SNA, Hunger Solutions NY