Government shutdown could impact school lunches

Updated: Jan. 17, 2019 at 5:35 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - With the partial government shutdown heading into week four, schools could soon feel the impact.

One of the biggest concerns is the National School Lunch Program, which is administered through the Department of Agriculture.

The USDA sent out a letter saying child nutrition programs will be funded through March.

Nutrition Director Kristen Bird said Dyersburg City Schools will continue to serve students.

"We'll keep feedings kids. The kids won't see a difference," said Bird.

There are 2,800 students in the district and about 70 percent are on free or reduced lunch.

Bird said Dyersburg City Schools has enough funds in its own budget to make it through the end of the school year.

"Preparing the same types of meals. Using the same products and our school system will just have to figure out a way to pay for it all," said Bird.

Marion School District Superintendent Dr. Glen Fenter said his district also has enough funds to make it to the end of the school year.

"We'll simply have to be able to afford to support that program on our own and it's about 200,000 to 250,000 dollars a month," said Bird.

Fenter said his district serves about 4,000 students. Over half of the students are fed on daily basis by the food program.

“It’s certainly something that you pray ends quickly because the longer it goes the more difficult it becomes to continue to take care of the needs of your students,” said Fenter.

Shelby County Schools officials said the USDA informed them that there is no expected impact to school nutrition services at this time as a result of the shutdown.

The Tipton County Food Service Department said they have also had no impact with the government shutdown.

“We have had no problems receiving our USDA commodities or receiving our reimbursements from state department,” said Henry Glass with Tipton County Food Service.

The American Association of School Administrators released the following statement:

“AASA remains optimistic that the current federal shutdown will end expeditiously and with minimal continued disruption. We are thankful Congress’ completed its work to provide funding through the appropriations bill that funds the bulk of federal education dollars through the US Education Department. That said, the US Department of Agriculture is not funded, and it is the agency whose funding provides schools with meal reimbursements for the school meals program. Should the shutdown reach into March, schools across the nation will find themselves looking at their budget and making cuts to ensure that students can continue to be fed. How a district responds will depend on what their budget includes: districts with a rainy day or reserve fund may dip into those pots, while other more resource strapped districts could look to make program cuts.”

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