The question “what’s for lunch?” just got a lot more interesting. Your child’s school lunch menu may be getting an overhaul based on trade mitigation. The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program that ensures all children attending public or non-profit private schools receive nutritious lunches. Ninety-five percent of schools participate in the program, serving approximately 4.9 billion lunches annually.
This year schools are being offered a part of the estimated $1.4 billion dollars worth of food through the Food Purchase and Distribution Program. The program is working to help minimize the effects of the United States’ recent trade negotiations.
Foreign countries dissatisfied with the new US policy have retaliated by refusing to import agricultural products from the US. This leaves farmers with an unexpected surplus of food and a lack of cash flow. The USDA has stepped up to cover this gap, “Specifically, the President has authorized USDA to provide up to $16 billion in programs, which is in line with the estimated impacts of unjustified retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods and other trade disruptions,” according to a press release from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Schools are now the beneficiary of some of this agricultural windfall. They are being offered commodities the government is helping to subsidize free of charge. This is exciting as many schools districts don’t get a regular allotment of free food. And it may impact what US students are offered in the lunch line. “The room lights up when everyone knows we’ve got new items that are coming,” Scott Clements, director of child nutrition at the Mississippi education department, told the Associated Press of the new offerings.
Clements’ district was the recipient of two truckloads of pulled pork and four loads of kidney beans from the mitigation. Schools are also being offered fruits, vegetables, poultry, beef, and milk as part of the mitigation. It’s up to each district to determine what items it can use and how to incorporate the surplus items into its lunch menu.
For school officials who work diligently to plan nutritious menus several months in advance, the influx of new options is a positive addition. Hopefully, students on the receiving end of the lunch line will feel the same.