ARLINGTON, VA – The School Nutrition Association (SNA) welcomed passage of The Keep Kids Fed Act of 2022, a bipartisan compromise bill to support school meal programs when federal pandemic waivers expire on June 30. However, during Senate consideration of the bill, a key provision to provide free meals to students eligible for reduced-price meals was removed from the bill.
The package still provides the following assistance through School Year 2022/23:
- Increase federal reimbursements for every school lunch by 40 cents and every school breakfast by 15 cents, above the annual inflationary adjustment scheduled for July 1
- Extend no-cost waivers, including those for schools unable to meet nutrition standards due to supply chain disruptions and to reduce administrative and reporting burdens
- Extend waivers for 2022 summer meal programs
“The Keep Kids Fed Act provides critical aid to school nutrition professionals confronting a continued onslaught of challenges in their effort to ensure students are nourished and ready to learn,” said School Nutrition Association President Beth Wallace, MBA, SNS. “Supply chain break downs, skyrocketing costs and severe labor shortages, expected to persist well into next school year, have prevented school meal programs from returning to normal operations.”
“We are extremely disappointed Senate leaders were forced to strike a key provision to eliminate the reduced-price meal co-pay for eligible families, struggling with rising food and gas costs,” said Wallace. “Throughout the pandemic, free school meals have ensured students are nourished and ready to learn. The loss of free school meals puts too many students at risk of going hungry.”
SNA’s 2022 Position Paper, released in January, called on Congress to extend pandemic-related child nutrition waivers to ensure students have access to free, healthy school meals despite persistent supply chain, food cost and labor burdens. With the loss of waivers imminent, SNA urged swift passage of the compromise released earlier this week.
“School Nutrition Association greatly appreciates Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member John Boozman, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott and Ranking Member Virginia Foxx for their work to craft this crucial compromise supporting school meal programs and the students they serve.”
SNA members have reported ongoing struggles to obtain sufficient food and supplies for their programs, as manufacturers discontinue products ranging from low-sodium chicken breasts to low-fat milk cartons and yogurt cups. Members have reported shortages of as many as 150-200 menu items per order, which send short-staffed school nutrition teams scrambling to secure healthy menu substitutions for their students. School nutrition directors across the country report unprecedented price increases, including a 280% increase in the cost of a case of gloves and 137% increase on whole grain bread.
SNA will continue to monitor challenges for school meal programs during School Year 2022/23 and advocate with Congress and USDA for necessary support for the programs and the students they serve.