The School Nutrition Association is calling on lawmakers to help resolve the financial challenges created by increasing unpaid student meal debt.
In its 2016 Position Paper, the SNA asks lawmakers to compel the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement regulations that effectively address accrued meal debt. Congress gave the USDA authority to address the issue in 2010, according to the release.
The nonprofit urges Congress to quickly pass child nutrition reauthorization—including the bipartisan bill on school meal standards approved by the Senate Agricultural Committee last month. It also renews its 2015 request for a 35-cent increase to the federal reimbursement rates for both school breakfast and lunch, in addition to an independent study of child nutrition program requirements to ease “burdensome” administrative mandates.
“For too long, school meals programs have been short-changed,” SNA President Jean Ronnei said in a statement. “While these programs have made many healthy changes to school menus to benefit students, they have shouldered significant financial burdens. The higher costs have simply become unsustainable.”
The USDA estimates updated nutrition standards will cost school districts more than $3 billion in additional food and labor costs by the end of fiscal year 2016.
According to a recent SNA survey, nearly eight in every 10 school districts have taken steps to offset financial losses in their meal programs, including reducing staff, cutting into reserve funds and limiting menu options.