The Congresswoman Introduced the Bill Alongside U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01)
Amid Ongoing Supply Chain Difficulties & Increased Costs, Spanberger’s “Helping Schools Feed Kids Act” Would Extend Increased Reimbursement Rates Established by the Spanberger-Supported “Keep Kids Fed Act” Through 2023-2024 School Year
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today introduced bipartisan legislation to help schools continue to provide meals to students and mitigate the impacts of inflation on school districts in Virginia and across the country.
School meal programs cover their expenses using federal reimbursements and cafeteria sales. Supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and rising costs have all dramatically increased costs for these programs. According to a recent survey of school nutrition directors, 99.8 percent of respondents indicated increasing costs as a top challenge. In June 2022, Spanberger voted with a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House to increase federal reimbursements for every school lunch by 40 cents and every school breakfast by 15 cents through the 2022-2023 school year as part of the Keep Kids Fed Act — which President Biden then signed into law. However, these increased rates are set to expire on June 30, 2023.
The Helping Schools Feed Kids Act would extend these increased reimbursement rates through the 2023-2024 school year. Additionally, the bill would direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to examine proposals for reducing the administrative burden on school food authorities while ensuring students continue to receive healthy school meals. Spanberger co-led the introduction of this legislation with U.S. Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01).
“Less than one year ago, amid rising inflation and persistent supply chain disruptions, an overwhelming majority of my colleagues in the U.S. House recognized the need to alleviate the burden on our schools,” said Spanberger. “As Virginia’s communities, schools, families, and children are still contending with high costs, we have the same responsibility to extend these provisions for the next school year. Together, we can help schools across our Commonwealth and our country keep their students fed — and I’m grateful for Congressman Fitzpatrick’s continued partnership in protecting access to school meals.”
“The bipartisan Helping Schools Feed Kids Act will extend existing federal reimbursement funding to support our schools as they feed kids in need,” said Fitzpatrick. “I am proud to join Representative Spanberger in introducing this legislation to ensure that educators and parents can be confident our children have adequate access to healthy meals.”
The bipartisan Helping Schools Feed Kids Act is endorsed by the School Nutrition Association, School Nutrition Association of Virginia, No Kid Hungry Virginia, Share Our Strength, and Feeding America.
“Persistent cost increases on food and supplies, coupled with labor shortages, threaten school meal programs and their long-term viability. This bipartisan bill will step in when Keep Kids Fed Act funds expire to continue providing the necessary increased reimbursements that ensure school meal programs have the means to nourish students’ success,” said Lori Adkins, MS, SNS, CHE, School Nutrition Association President. “Additionally, addressing unnecessary regulatory burdens alleviates operators to focus their efforts on serving students and sustaining progress within their programs.”
“Extending the increased reimbursement rate for school meals will go a long way in supporting schools and families as they struggle to keep up with high costs,” said Lisa Davis, Senior Vice President, Share Our Strength. “We appreciate the bipartisan support and leadership of Reps. Spanberger and Fitzpatrick to improve school meal affordability.”
Click here to read the full bill text.
Spanberger has repeatedly led efforts pushing Congress to take such actions and maintain waivers that have been a lifeline for school districts as they provide reliable meals, navigate supply chain issues, and budget for rising food costs. In February 2022, Spanberger and Fitzpatrick introduced the Keeping School Meals Flexible Act to extend the expiration date for USDA authority to establish, grant, or extend child nutrition waivers through the 2022-2023 school year, ending on June 30, 2023.
In June 2022, the bipartisan duo pushed U.S. House leadership in both parties to extend USDA waiver authority. Three days later, an overwhelming majority of the U.S. House voted to pass the Keep Kids Fed Act to extend waivers through the 2022-2023 school year, temporarily raise reimbursement rates, and protect access to school meals. Additionally, Virginia school food authorities received an additional $59 million in funding through increased reimbursement rates as a result of the Keep Kids Fed Act.