As the partial government shutdown reaches its 35th day, more concerns have come into play. Schools are now worried they won’t be able to afford the lunches they provide due to a lack of funds from the federal government.
The Department of Agriculture Secretary, Sonny Perdue, tweeted on Friday that “child nutrition programs are funded quarterly and are fully funded through the end of March.”
Schools around the nation have already started minimizing school lunches, in order to save money and food. A lapse in funding will be hitting cafeterias everywhere in March.
If the government shutdown continues, some schools might not have the money to fund meals. So, I went to see what’s being done here in North Dakota, if it does come to that.
DPI Director of Child Nutrition and Food Distribution, Linda Schloer, “State For school lunch and school breakfast it averages about 3.3 million dollars per month.”
Schloer tells me that North Dakota schools average about 87,000 lunches and 27,000 breakfasts each day. That means if the government shutdown continues it could potentially affect a lot of children in our state. However, she says if it does continue she doesn’t see it affecting North Dakota schools as dramatically as some other states.
“I definitely don’t see any districts that totally will stop offering meals or preparing meals,” says Schloer.
Schloer says schools will be reimbursed any money if the shutdown continues. But how are schools in North Dakota reimbursed in general?
Bismarck Schools Child Nutrition Director for Bismarck Schools, Michelle Wagner says, “Our funding is based on the amount of meals that we serve. So every meal that we serve we get reimbursed a certain portion from the federal government and so that’s what helps cover the cost of our food our labor and things like that.”
I asked Wagner if her school district would be able to fund their school’s meals if they didn’t get that reimbursement.
“We do have some money in our reserve fund in the child nutrition fund that could help cover some of those expenses if it ever came to that in April and May,” says Wagner.
Some smaller schools, unfortunately, might not have those reserved funds, which brings up the question what will happen to them?
“If it gets to that point it will basically be up to the school districts,” says Schloer. “They might not receive the funding that they normally will receive it for the reimbursement. But once the government is back and running they will get that funding. It is an entitlement program and we are not worried about losing altogether, its just the lapse of payment that is the biggest concern.”
Schloer says they do have extra funds if the government shutdown continues to last until the middle of April.
They say they haven’t planned anything drastic yet and are hopeful it won’t get to that point.