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The president of the School Nutrition Association has a message for Speaker of the House John Boehner and members of Congress: The shutdown needs to end, now.
Leah Schmidt urges Boehner and House representatives in an open letter to take steps to end the shutdown before millions of students across the country are negatively affected.
In the letter directed at the government leaders, Schmidt writes more than 31 million students in the United States depend on the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs to receive the nutrition they need to be successful every school day.
She says the shutdown leaves school administrators uncertain of the future of the school’s lunch programs after Nov. 1, 2013, when programs begin to file federal reimbursement claims for meals served in October.
The US Department of Agriculture has not guaranteed reimbursement for all states and all meals served in October, writes Schmidt.
She says school meal programs run on extremely tight budgets and cannot have more than a three-month operating fund balance.
The programs, therefore, depend on timely federal reimbursements to cover staff wages, reimburse school districts for utilities and custodial services and pay local businesses, farmers and distributors who provide food, supplies and equipment.
Schmidt says a failure by the Federal government to provide states with funding for the programs could threaten millions of students who rely on school meals as their primary source of food.
Every Monday morning, school nutrition professionals across the country open their cafeteria doors to find children eagerly in line for school breakfast after a weekend with not enough food to eat at home. On behalf on those children, I strongly urge you to end the government shutdown as soon as possible to ensure the continued quality and service of school meals.
However, in a question and answer session Friday with the USDA, they said,
USDA has determined that additional funding is currently available, and is sufficient to support program activity for several months in fiscal year 2014. This funding is provided through a permanent appropriation supporting the Child Nutrition programs, and its availability to support Child Nutrition program obligations does not depend on further action by Congress.
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