USDA Report Highlights Need for School Food Funding

May 14, 2008

by Rochelle Davis, HSC Founding Executive Director

For almost seventy years, the federal government has been providing school meals to low-income students.  Last month, the USDA released a report [pdf] examining the cost to schools of providing a school meal to students. They found that the federal programs only paid 82 percent of the full cost of the meals during the 2005-2006 school year.   

This brings up several important points. First, this is particularly burdensome for school districts, such as Chicago, where the vast majority of students participate in the federal school food programs.  The district is not able to offset this deficit with revenues from other students paying for school meals.  Second, this study was completed for the 2005-2006 school year—before the steady increase in food prices. 

Next year Congress will be taking up the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act, which includes the school food program. I hope that our political leaders will take note of this study and provide school districts with the funding that they need to provide students with healthy school meals.