School meals funded despite shutdown, for now

Memo from USDA indicates that current appropriations will tide schools over through October.

Oct. 3—Despite the federal government shutdown that started Oct. 1, school meal programs will still be able to continue unabated, for the time being. According to a memo from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to state directors of Child Nutrition programs, money to pay benefits for FY 2013 will still be available.

"This means school food authorities and other program operators would receive reimbursement for meals served prior to Oct. 1, 2013," the memo states. "FNS has confirmed that the Treasury ASAP letter of credit system will continue to operate and all state agencies will be able to draw funding for FY 2013 benefits."

As a result of the impasse between the U.S. Senate and House of representatives, most USDA Food & Nutrition Services employees have been furloughed. According to USDA, this means "staff will not be available by phone or email, and cannot carrry out work for the agency until funding is restored."

School meal providers are reimbursed for meals served under the NSLP 30 days after the end of the service month, meaning that school districts participating in the NSLP will not suffer from the shutdown, provided it ends before Oct. 31. After that, however, things could get dicey.

"Limited carryover funding will be available during a lapse to support FY 2014 meal service," the USDA memo reads. "Once an appropriation is enacted, we expect additional resources will be available to reimburgse October performance."

For more information on USDA's plans for an extended shutdown, visit www.whitehouse.gov/omb/contingency-plans.