WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture issued its plan for an adjustment in school meal reimbursements that is estimated to be more than $750 million. The agency announced the variation on school meal programs to make sure federal reimbursements kept pace with food and operational costs.

“USDA understands that balancing the pressures of the pandemic with the need to feed children healthy and nutritious meals continues to be a priority for schools across the country,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The Biden-Harris Administration is doing everything we can and these higher meal reimbursements will help allow school meal programs to continue meeting their mission of giving children the nourishment they need to grow, learn, and thrive.”

Due to the higher food costs and other circumstances, the USDA plans for schools to receive an additional 25¢ per lunch. In December 2021, the agency announced a $1.5 billion program to help school districts dealing with supply chain disruptions. 

Typically, school lunch reimbursement rates do not increase during the school year. However, the USDA allowed schools to benefit from the highest rates available, usually reserved for the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). The summer rates adjust for inflation annually in January by law. 

“This adjustment is well-timed to ensure the purchasing power of schools keeps pace with the cost of living,” the agency added in its statement. “Schools receiving these reimbursement rates can stretch their operating budgets further during these tough times, while giving families fewer meal expenses to worry about each school day.”

At the start of the 2021-2022 school year, the SFSP lunch reimbursement rate for participating schools was already 15% higher than the standard reimbursement for a free lunch. Now, schools are receiving 22% more for school lunches than they would under standard conditions.