ORANGE, Mass. – Today in Orange, U.S. Representative James P. McGovern (D-MA), joined by Orange Superintendent of Schools Dr. Liz Zielinski and Fisher Hill Elementary Director of Food Services Jacki Dillenbeck, announced the LUNCHES Act—a new bill in the House of Representatives to help school districts provide students with healthy food by reimbursing them for the actual cost of producing school lunches.
A 2019 study from the USDA found a 49-cent difference between the actual cost to produce the lunch and the rate schools are reimbursed. McGovern’s bill would permanently increase the reimbursement rate for lunches by 49-cents to close the gap and help provide much needed relief to schools so they can focus on feeding students and preparing them for the future. If passed, his bill would provide Orange Elementary Schools with an additional $26,516.84 to help provide healthy, nutritious food to students.
The Level Up Nutrition for Children in Every School, or LUNCHES Act, is endorsed by the National Education Association, the School Nutrition Association, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“This bill is very simple but incredibly necessary,” said Congressman McGovern. “No child should ever go without healthy, nutritious food in America’s schools—and schools shouldn’t be required to make up the difference by digging deeper and deeper into already thin budgets. This is an issue of national importance, and I will be working with my colleagues to move this bill to President Biden’s desk.”
“School nutrition professionals are always working to offer students more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and on-trend menu options to get kids excited about eating healthy school lunches,” said School Nutrition Association President Beth Wallace, MBA, SNS. “These menu improvements cost more money, and school meal program budgets are extremely tight, especially in light of rising pandemic costs. The LUNCHES Act of 2022 will provide critical funds to boost investments in healthy choices that fuel student success in and out of the classroom.”
“The Academy thanks Rep. McGovern for introducing the LUNCHES Act to ensure school meal programs are sustainable,” said registered dietitian Kevin L. Sauer, the 2021-2022 President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “The school meal program is this country’s greatest tool to establish healthy eating habits in children to set them up for success as adults. Investing today to empower communities to purchase healthier foods, buy locally, build infrastructure and train staff all translates to a bright future for coming generations.”
While the USDA took an important first step in addressing this by increasing the school lunch reimbursement rate for the 2021-2022 school year by .25 cents to make up for the pandemic, this change is only for the short term and the gap in cost of production existed long before the pandemic.