Vicky Hartzler

04/21/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/21/2021 13:12

Hartzler, Schrier Lead Legislation for Affordable School Lunch

WASHINGTON, D.C.-Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) has introduced the School Lunch Affordability Act, alongside Rep. Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA), to help return local control to schools as they work to ensure all students are fed in a nutritious and affordable manner. This legislation would amend the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Actto require that only a local school food authority (SFA) that had a negative balance in their food service account on June 30th of the year preceding the previous school year shall be required to establish a price for paid lunches.

'Throughout our nation and here at home, schools seek to provide nutritious lunches for our children at affordable prices, as we know students learn best when their fundamental needs are met,' Hartzler said. 'But should our state be forced to comply with burdensome federal regulations which increase costs, our children may be priced out of their current food program, creating unnecessary waste and hungry children. The School Lunch Affordability Act permanently puts the folks who know our kids best back in charge of their lunches: Missourians - not Washington.'

'I'm honored to work with Rep. Hartzler on this bipartisan bill to rescind the rule that forces schools to raise their school meal prices even when they do not want or need to do so,' Schrier said. 'While well-intentioned, it is not practical. The decision to raise or lower school lunch prices should rest with local education officials who best understand the needs of their community. It is past time remove the burden of increased meal prices from the shoulders of hardworking families.'

Every year, schools are forced to raise their school lunch prices to comply with the Paid Lunch Equity Program (PLE) set by the Richard B. Russel National School Lunch Act. This arbitrary price increase mandated miles away by Congress has no impact on nutritional content and puts unnecessary pressure on hard working American families and ultimately leads to more hungry students.

While the PLE Program was originally set out to help bring in additional revenue to strengthen a local school food authority's (SFA) financial standing, concerns have been rising about the unnecessary burden this places on school districts, especially those districts in good financial standing that are still required to raise their school lunch prices. Local officials know their communities best and should be the ones responsible for setting school lunch prices in their cafeterias.

Temporary relief was provided to SFAs for four consecutive school years in H.R. 1625, H.J. Res 31, HR 1865, HR 8337 consolidated appropriations for Fiscal Years 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. This legislation would make that relief permanent.

The Food Research and Action Center has endorsed the School Lunch Affordability Act.

Read the bill in its entirety here.