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USDA approves $750 million in aid for school meals

Posted at 7:36 PM, Jan 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 22:49:51-05

CENTRAL TEXAS — It's hard to find something that hasn't been affected by supply shortages over these past few months, food being no exception.

Texans like Chuck Graham have noticed their grocery bills spiking as of late.

"Everybody's been paying the same price for it," said Graham. "That's all we can do. Hope that we elect the right people to get in there and fix this."

Just like our trips to the store, schools have also felt the impact of price hikes as they work to make sure kids have enough to eat. Rudy Frett, the director of foodservice at Midway ISD, says they've been dealing with higher food costs all year long.

"We have a great supplier that we get a lot of our supplies from, and they've been great, but I mean we've been having to deal with the same issues," said Frett.

The USDA heard the calls for help, and it's stepping in to provide new funding. $750 million is being sent out to schools across the country to help reimburse meal programs. Midway ISD made it through the pandemic so far without compromising its meals, but the district says it's happy to get more support.

"Even if our products might be a little bit different from time to time just because of supply chains, we're still providing the same amount of meals and still providing the same quality day in and day out," said Frett.

The extra funding comes after the USDA sent a billion dollars last year so schools could offer free lunches to all students regardless of family income. Frett says the money went a long way in offering peace of mind during the pandemic. Not only that but he's seen a decrease in the insecurities of students who would normally be on a free lunch program. Kids no longer have to feel shame about their level of need.

"Just having a balanced meal that students are able to, universally free, go through our lines and grab for breakfast and lunch, I mean it's been huge," said Frett.

The USDA is making sure the new funding is going directly to school districts rather than contracted food suppliers, helping schools get the leverage they need to make it through another semester as supply chain woes continue. Schools won't have to worry about penalties if they cannot meet the usual meal standards and regulations.